(Tel Aviv) – Tens of thousands of Israeli protesters marched Saturday in Tel Aviv and near the parliament in Jerusalem to raise their opposition to a controversial judicial reform that will be the subject of a crucial vote in the coming days.
This reform, implemented by Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, is deeply dividing Israel, which has been rocked since January by one of the longest-running protest movements in its history.
Democracy or revolution! Protesters chanted in Tel Aviv on Saturday, while tens of thousands chanted pro-democracy slogans for the 29th day.H Consecutive evening of mobilization, according to an AFP correspondent on the spot.
On Saturday, demonstrations were witnessed in Beersheba (south), Herzliya, and Kfar Saba, north of Tel Aviv, according to photos distributed by the organizers.
“The government is not listening to us. This means it is the beginning of a new era, a bad era,” Edit Dekel, 55, told AFP.
According to the government, the reform aims, among other things, to rebalance the powers, by reducing the powers of the Supreme Court, which the executive branch considers politicized, in favor of Parliament. But its critics believe it risks opening the way to an anti-liberal or authoritarian drift.
“For me, it’s disastrous,” summed up Dekel, a protester who works in the high-tech sector.
As of Sunday noon in the Knesset (parliament), discussions will be held on a reform measure aimed at eliminating the possibility that Israeli justice will rule on the “reasonableness” of government decisions.
This item will then be voted on by 2H and 3H reading. If passed, it would be the first major component of the proposed judicial reform to become law.
Sit in front of the Knesset
To put pressure on the deputies, thousands of demonstrators gathered on Saturday evening outside the Knesset and the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, after they traveled the nearly 65 kilometers between Tel Aviv and the Holy City.
Armed with umbrellas to protect from the scorching sun, water bottles and Israeli flags, the demonstrators marched along the stretch of highway, stopping at noon and at night.
At the end of the day, hundreds of demonstrators set up makeshift tents near the Knesset and promised to spend the night there.
“This government is an extremist and religious government and we hope to bring it down as soon as possible,” explains Guy Medan, who participated in this multi-day march with his family.
“Many of us will camp here until the vote is cancelled,” he said.
The government “is trying to overthrow the whole democracy, basic laws and human rights, and we are here to stop it,” says Keren Moore, one of the protesters.
The “reasonableness” clause was approved at first reading on the night of July 10-11, and in January Netanyahu was forced to dismiss the second-in-command in the government, Aryeh Deri, convicted of tax evasion, after the High Court intervened.
Other measures displeased the demonstrators, such as amending the procedures for appointing judges, which were adopted by the deputies in the first reading.
Critics of the prime minister, who is on trial for corruption, accuse him of wanting to use this reform to mitigate a possible sentence against him.
“We will not allow a corrupt, extremist and corrupt government to destroy the State of Israel,” Merav Michaeli, one of the opposition leaders, said on Twitter. “We will win.”
Threats from reservists
At least 1,142 Israeli Air Force reservists threatened Saturday to suspend their volunteer service if the law is approved by the Knesset.
They said in a statement that any legislation applied in an “unconscionable” manner would weaken my willingness to continue to risk my life and force me with great sadness to suspend voluntary reserve service.”
And on Thursday evening, Mr. Netanyahu emphasized remaining “open” to negotiations with the opposition, while the project also drew criticism abroad, particularly in the United States, Israel’s close allies.
US President Joe Biden on Wednesday urged the Israeli government not to “rush” its reforms and proceed with caution, in an unusually direct criticism of Israeli domestic policy.
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