TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Tens of thousands of Israelis marched Saturday in several cities against judicial overhaul plans proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.
The demonstration took place in the central city of Tel Aviv, part of a weekly protest campaign that has kicked off since Justice Minister Yariv Levin announced the proposed changes in early January.
Netanyahu and his supporters, members of the most religious, right-wing government in the country’s history, say the changes are needed to rein in a judiciary that wields too much power.
But critics, who include large sectors of Israeli society, say the overhauls would weaken Israel’s Supreme Court and damage the country’s fragile system of democratic checks and balances. They also say that Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption charges, is motivated by a personal grudge against the legal system and has a deep conflict of interest. Netanyahu has said he is a victim of a witch hunt.
In Tel Aviv, protesters raised large Israeli flags and held banners reading “Bibi (Netanyahu) everything has its end.” Other posters read “Freedom, Justice, Peace” and “Rotten Banana Republic.”
“This legislation is unacceptable, said Ret. Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, former chief of staff of Israel’s military. “And we will do our best in order to prevent it from happening.”
On Sunday, Israel’s President Isaac Herzog urged Netanyahu to seek a compromise with his political opponents and delay the contentious judiciary overhaul plans, but on Monday the government formally launched the plans at the Knesset as tens of thousands protested outside the building.