Saturday, October 28, 2023

Israeli Protests Against Judicial Reforms Draw Thousands


The Israeli government’s proposed overhaul of the judiciary has sparked widespread protests across the country, with tens of thousands of people taking to the streets to voice their opposition. Despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to delay the contentious proposals in late March, demonstrators are calling for the plan to be scrapped entirely.

The main demonstration in Tel Aviv on Saturday saw over 100,000 people participate, while smaller protests were held in other locations. Counterprotests were also planned by supporters of the government’s plan.

Protest organisers have been holding weekly demonstrations for more than three months, with the aim of maintaining momentum and increasing pressure on Netanyahu and his government. The proposed changes have faced opposition from civil society, parts of the army, and even members of Netanyahu’s own cabinet.

The plan would give Netanyahu and his allies in Israel’s most hardline government the final say in appointing the nation’s judges. It would also grant parliament, which is controlled by his allies, the authority to overturn Supreme Court decisions and limit the court’s ability to review laws.

Opponents argue that this would destroy the system of checks and balances by concentrating power in the hands of Netanyahu and his allies in parliament. They have also raised concerns about a conflict of interest, given that Netanyahu is currently on trial for corruption charges.

Despite these concerns, Netanyahu has defended the proposed changes, arguing that they are necessary to ensure that the judiciary is more accountable to elected officials. He has also accused opponents of trying to undermine democracy and the rule of law.

The protests have been largely peaceful, although there have been some clashes between demonstrators and police. In one incident, police used water cannons to disperse protesters who had blocked a major road in Tel Aviv.

The demonstrations have received widespread international attention, with many countries expressing concern about the proposed changes and calling on Israel to uphold the principles of democracy and the rule of law.

The United States, which is a close ally of Israel, has been particularly vocal in its opposition to the plan. In a statement, the State Department said that the proposed changes “threaten to undermine Israel’s democratic institutions and the rule of law.”

The European Union has also expressed concern, with a spokesperson saying that the proposed changes “risk seriously undermining the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers.”

The protests are likely to continue until there is a resolution to the issue. While Netanyahu has delayed the proposed overhaul, it remains to be seen whether he will ultimately scrap the plan or push ahead with it in some form.

Either way, the demonstrations have highlighted the deep divisions within Israeli society and the growing concern about the erosion of democratic norms and institutions. As one protester put it, “We’re here to defend democracy and the rule of law. We won’t stop until we win.”

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