Israeli protests against curbing Supreme Court go into 11th week

The main protest on Saturday was in Tel Aviv, where tens of thousands of people waved Israeli flags

Protesters in Tel Aviv during a demonstration against the judicial overhaul bill. AFP
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Israelis took to the streets in protests, now in their 11th week, against plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to overhaul the country’s legal system.

Protesters say the proposed changes undermine the country's democracy by restricting the power of the Supreme Court.

Mr Netanyahu and his allies say the plan is needed to curb what they claim are the excessive powers of unelected judges.

The main protest on Saturday was in Tel Aviv, where tens of thousands of people waved Israeli flags and banners that read “Dead End!” and “Risk Ahead!” Smaller protests were reported in other parts of the country.

Mr Netanyahu, who says his aim is to balance out branches of government, wields a parliamentary majority along with his religious-nationalist coalition allies.

As the changes head towards ratification, the protests have escalated, affecting the economy — the shekel has slipped — and extending to a threat by some military reservists not to heed call-up orders.

“I came with my friends here to Tel Aviv, to demonstrate against what is called reforms,” Ronen Shaike, 47, said.

People wrapped in Israeli flags watch the Tel Aviv protest. EPA

He said he wanted to defend the country's democracy from the government.

Mr Netanyahu, who returned to office for a sixth term in late December, has said the demonstrations are aimed at toppling him.

“I'm here to demonstrate with the people of Israel, against the revolution, against the changing of our state,” said Dalia Yosef, 72, also in Tel Aviv.

Earlier on Saturday, protesters demonstrated in a village where National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir was spending his weekend.

“Protest against me as much as you want,” he said on Twitter. “I will fight for your right to protest. But why gather outside the windows of the synagogue with loudspeakers, honk, scream and make people violate Shabbat?”

President Isaac Herzog has appealed for the overhaul to be postponed and presented an alternative plan to the changes on Wednesday which was swiftly rejected by Mr Netanyahu.

Updated: March 19, 2023, 9:34 AM