HomeMiddle EastThousands protest in Israel despite pause in judicial review

Thousands protest in Israel despite pause in judicial review

Protesters take to the streets days after Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to freeze the controversial proposal.

Thousands of Israelis have protested in Tel Aviv for the 13th consecutive week against a controversial judicial review which has now been suspended by the government while talks are held with party representatives.

Waving Israeli flags on Saturday, people marched through the center of Israel’s commercial hub, chanting “democracy” and carrying banners condemning the far-right government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Smaller rallies were taking place in other cities.

Demonstrations erupted in January after the coalition announced its reform package, which the government says is needed to rebalance powers between parliamentarians and the judiciary.

The proposed reforms would reduce the authority of the Supreme Court and give politicians greater powers over the selection of judges, which opponents say could endanger Israeli democracy.

On Monday, Netanyahu announced a pause in passing necessary legislation in parliament, amid a general strike sparked by his announcement that he would fire Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for calling for such a pause.

The proposed reforms would reduce the authority of the Supreme Court (Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)

engagement talks

By Tuesday, representatives of most parties in parliament had begun talks at the residence of President Isaac Herzog to try to formulate legislation that would be acceptable to both sides of the political spectrum.

Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith, reporting from Tel Aviv, said a broad spectrum of the Israeli population was against Netanyahu’s plans for judicial reform.

“Many people here don’t believe the prime minister when he says that he will actually participate in the consultations,” he said.

He added that Netanyahu is under a lot of pressure from his far-right allies to press ahead with judicial reforms despite nationwide protests against the move.

Critics have seen the government’s push as a threat to the independence of the court and an attempted legal coup. Defenders have said it is looking for a less elitist and interventionist bank.

Netanyahu, on trial on corruption charges he has denied, said reforms were needed to balance the branches of government. His Likud party and its far-right political allies have been calling on his political base to organize counter-demonstrations.

Israeli media estimated that more than 150,000 people turned out for anti-government protests across the country on Saturday.

Many political commentators and opposition figures have expressed skepticism about the prospects of Herzog’s mediation efforts, and the coalition said it would complete the legislation in the next parliamentary session if talks fail.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu has not presented Gallant with the termination letter required by law, so the defense minister has been carrying out his duties as usual.

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