Tens of thousands of Israelis continue anti-gov’t protests

Protesters gather against Israel’s right-wing government’s planned changes that will weaken the judicial system.

Israelis hold signs with the faces of politicians and the slogan "What are you afraid of?" during a demonstration against proposed judicial reforms by Israel's new right-wing government in Tel Aviv, Israel January 28, 2023. REUTERS/Corinna Kern
Israelis hold signs with faces of politicians with the slogan 'What are you afraid of?' during a protest in Tel Aviv, Israel [File: Corinna Kern/Reuters]

Tens of thousands of Israelis have protested across the country against the right-wing government for the fourth consecutive week.

The latest rally was held on Saturday, with demonstrators carrying Israeli flags on Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv chanting “No to dictatorship” and “Democracy”.

As in the past weeks, the protest was directed primarily against the government’s proposed changes that will weaken the judicial system.

According to the plans by Justice Minister Yariv Levin, a majority in parliament should be able to pass a law, even if it violates the Basic Law in the opinion of the Supreme Court.

Levin also wants to change the composition of the body that appoints judges. The far-reaching changes could also play into Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu’s hands in his current corruption trial where he stands accused of fraud, breach of trust, and corruption.

Netanyahu accuses the Supreme Court of excessive interference in political decisions. Some experts have already warned of an end to democracy in the country if the plans are implemented.

israel protests
An aerial view shows Israelis attending a demonstration against proposed changes to the judicial system by Israel’s new right-wing government, in Tel Aviv [File: Oren Alon/Reuters]

The reform, if enacted, would be the most radical change in the system of government in Israel. But Netanyahu claims that he received a mandate from millions of voters to carry out judicial reforms.

Some protesters also criticised the country’s treatment of Palestinians.

“There is no democracy with occupation,” one sign read.

There have been regular protests against the government for several weeks, with more than 100,000 people turning up in Tel Aviv on January 21.

This week’s protests come after seven people were killed in an attack on a synagogue in occupied East Jerusalem on Friday. On Saturday, a 13-year-old shot and seriously injured two Israelis near Jerusalem’s Old City.

That was after nine Palestinians were killed Thursday and dozens injured in an Israeli military operation in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin. In all, Israeli forces have killed 32 Palestinians this month.

The deadly Israeli raid provoked grief and anger in the besieged Gaza Strip. Rockets were fired into Israel, an attack claimed by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

They were shot down early on Friday by Israel’s Iron Dome air defence system, and Israel carried out air attacks on locations in Gaza that it said are used by armed groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Netanyahu’s Security Cabinet, which is filled with hardline politicians aligned with the illegal settlement movement in the occupied West Bank, approved punitive measures against Palestinians on Saturday in response to the pair of shooting attacks.

Netanyahu’s office said the Security Cabinet agreed to seal off the attacker’s home immediately ahead of its demolition. It also plans to cancel social security benefits for the families of attackers, make it easier for Israelis to get gun licenses and step up efforts to collect what it considers “illegal” weapons.

Source: News Agencies