Over 100,000 Israelis protest judicial reforms in Tel Aviv
The massive turnout marks the start of the twentieth week since the anti-government protests began
By News Desk - May 21 2023

(Photo credit: Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

To mark the twentieth week of anti-government protests in Israel, tens of thousands flooded the streets on 20 May to continue demonstrations against Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul plans.

According to the Jerusalem Post, over 135,000 Israelis took part in the main demonstration in Tel Aviv. Protests erupted in other occupied cities, including Ashdod, Haifa, and the holy city of Jerusalem.

During the protests, many called on opposition leaders Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz to walk away from compromise talks with Netanyahu’s coalition, which have so far resulted in little to no progress.

Speaking at one of the rallies, Lapid said that next month, “the Knesset must choose its representatives in the Judicial Selection Committee – including the opposition representative – convene the committee immediately and start working in accordance with the rules that were in place throughout the year. Without this, the entire dialogue is a scam, and we won’t lend our hand to a scam.”

“The government needs to take all the laws off the Knesset’s table and they must understand – there will be no situation in which the coalition appoints its own judges,” Lapid said, in what the Times of Israel referred to as an “ultimatum” to the coalition.

Netanyahu’s push for judicial reform has triggered massive discontent. Many Israelis see the move as an attempt to replace ‘Israeli democracy’ with a dictatorship – given that the reforms aim to weaken Israel’s Supreme Court, and give the coalition and thereby Netanyahu more authority over selecting judges.

The prime minister claims, however, that Israel’s Supreme Court has become “all-powerful,” and that the reforms aim to restore checks and balances between it and the other branches of government.

Under the sponsorship of Israeli President Isaac Herzog, the opposition and the coalition have attempted to reach a compromise.

However, at the start of this month, Gantz said that “negotiations aren’t progressing at all on any issue.”

A coalition lawmaker, Simcha Rothman, said last week that Israel may push forward with the reforms if negotiations do not bear fruit.

“If they (opposition) don’t want to reach agreement, we will, in my opinion, have to move ahead with some of the reforms,” he said.

Rothman added that a bill to restructure the judge selecting system was the “ripest” to be moved along with, given that it has already passed a preliminary reading in the Knesset.

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