Battle over judicial reforms continue to bring Israelis on to the streets

Second London demo in support of protests due to take place this afternoon


TEL AVIV, ISRAEL - MARCH 11: Tens of thousands of Israelis attend a massive protest against the government's judicial overhaul plan on March 11, 2023 in Tel Aviv, Israel. The Netanyahu government is pushing ahead with proposed overhaul of the judiciary that would limit the Israeli Supreme Court's ability to review and strike down laws that it deems unconstitutional. Critics say the changes will undermine judicial independence and threaten Israel's democracy. (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)

Protests against the Israeli government’s planned judicial reforms which critics fear will weaken its democracy hit a new peak on Saturday night with an estimated 200,000 demonstrators in Tel Aviv alone and 50,000 in Haifa.

Israel’s governing coalition has remained determined to press ahead with proposals that would reduce the power of the judiciary and give a freer hand to politicians.

But opponents of the measures have continued to bring Israelis on to the streets with opposition leader Yair Lapid saying at one of a number of protests yesterday that the country faced its “greatest crisis”.

On Sunday afternoon, a second London rally in support of the demonstrators, which has been organised by Israeli expats, is due to take place in Parliament Square, Westminster.

The event has also drawn support from within the local Jewish community with Labour MP Margaret Hodge and Rabbis Deborah  Blausten (Reform) and Zahavit Shalev (Masorti) among the listed speakers.

Rabbi Blausten, who is married to an Israeli, is due to say, “I stand here in solidarity with our colleagues in the Israeli Reform Movement, whose work has been tirelessly to develop both of Jewish and democratic character of the Israeli national project. \

“I know firsthand from their work, the importance of the Supreme Court and the judiciary to safeguard the rights of all - Charedi women, Israelis Arabs, converts from the former Soviet Union. 

“The tools of Israel’s democracy have enabled us to ensure that there is somebody keeping their eye on the bigger task, on ensuring that whatever their political winds of the moment, there are boundaries that cannot be breached.”

On Sunday, former Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelbilt added his voice to the revolt against the proposals, warning that if they were implemented, “Israel will cease being a democracy”.

On Thursday, Israel’s President Isaac Herzog called on the government to shelve the “oppressive” measures and seek consensus.

But the Diaspora Affairs Minister Amikai Chikli said the president’s speech had been “hysterical” and he should have spoken more moderately.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, the Israeli army said it had killed three Palestinian gunmen who had fired on an army checkpost near Nablus.

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