A good 80,000 people attended the demonstration in Tel Aviv on Saturday.
The new Israeli government around Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (73) has only been in office for two weeks and already tatters are flying.
On Saturday, more than 80,000 demonstrators took to the streets of Tel Aviv and expressed their displeasure with Justice Minister Jariv Levin’s (53) plans to reform the judiciary.
Far-reaching changes in the justice system
The rally in Tel Aviv began in the pouring rain in the city center on the square in front of the Habima National Theater. The demonstrators then roamed the streets waving blue and white Israeli flags. “Democracy,” they chanted over and over again. “The state is not your toy,” read one poster.
It was the largest demonstration to date against the new government, which was sworn in at the end of December. Protests also took place in Haifa and Jerusalem.
The reform envisages far-reaching changes in the Israeli judicial system. Should the law come into force, a simple majority of 61 MPs in parliament could pass a law in the future, even if the Supreme Court found it to violate Israel’s Basic Law and could therefore be declared invalid by the Supreme Court.
«Death blow» against the independence of the judges
Unlike many other democracies, Israel has no constitution. The Basic Law fulfills this function. It is up to the supreme judges to examine the compatibility of the laws with the principles of the Basic Law. Attorney General Levin is now planning to change the composition of the panel that appoints judges. This is because, according to Levin, the Supreme Court would interfere excessively in political decisions.
The chair of the Supreme Court in Israel, Esther Chajut (69), had already warned in an unusually sharply worded speech on Thursday of a “deadly blow” to the independence of the judges. After the planned reforms, the country’s democratic identity would be completely distorted, she said. Justice Minister Levin then accused Chayut of being on the side of the opposition.
President Izchak Herzog (62) expressed concern on Sunday about the “profound rift that is tearing our country apart”. He stressed that the foundations of Israeli democracy, including the judicial system, are sacred and must be closely guarded. He is trying to have a constructive dialogue between both sides, said Herzog, according to his office.
Israel’s right-wing extremist police minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir (46), had announced tough action against demonstrators at the beginning of the week. However, the protests were largely peaceful. The police only prevented several hundred demonstrators from blocking an expressway in Tel Aviv.
The government of re-elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the most right-wing government Israel has ever had, according to experts. (ced/SDA)