Israelis wave flags during a protest against the justice system reform in Tel Aviv, Israel, 04 May 2023. EFE/EPA/ATEF SAFADI

Fresh protests in Israel against Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul

Jerusalem, May 4 (EFE).- Israelis again staged nationwide protests on Thursday to condemn the far-right government’s judicial reforms.

Netanyahu’s government, the most right-wing in the country’s history, unveiled plans to reform the judicial system in January but the premier suspended the parliamentary approval procedure at end of March after massive criticism and widespread protests until after the Passover recess last month.

Thursday’s demonstrations coincided with the Knesset’s reopening.

Demonstrators marched through the streets of Tel Aviv on Thursday waving Israeli flags and lighting flares in protests that they billed as “National Equality Day”, according to an epa photographer on the ground.

Israelis wave flags and light flares during a colourful protest against the justice system reform in Tel Aviv, Israel, 04 May 2023. EFE/EPA/ATEF SAFADI

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has “returned to incitement and his ministers announced that their goal was to approve the judicial coup bills in the Knesset (the Israeli parliament),” one of the groups organizing the protests said.

“Only the hundreds of thousands of Israelis in the streets can stop the government from destroying the army, the economy and social cohesion,” it added.

One of the most controversial reform proposals is the one on the selection of judges, which, if passed, would give the government control over the committee responsible for appointing justices, which opponents and critics see as a threat to Israel’s democratic foundations.

The proposed overhaul includes other contentious aspects, such as allowing a simple parliamentary majority to overturn Supreme Court decisions on legislation and laws shielding politicians from judicial oversight.

Israeli protesters during a rally against the justice system reform in Tel Aviv, Israel, 04 May 2023. EFE/EPA/ATEF SAFADI

In addition to weakening the country’s judicial system, many Israelis fear the reforms would undermine the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, women and Israeli Arabs, and give privileges to certain segments of the population, such as the ultra-Orthodox.

Talks between Netanyahu’s government and the political opposition, mediated by President Isaac Herzog, during the parliamentary recess have failed to reach a compromise.

“Negotiations at the president’s house have failed because Netanyahu is unwilling to compromise and maintain the independence of the judiciary,” an organizing group said. “Only the ongoing mass protests will prevent Israel from becoming a dictatorship.”

While the prime minister said he was committed to reaching a consensus, he accused the opposition of being reluctant.

“You only talk about dialogue but in talks say, ‘No, no, no, no.’ I would be happy to hear what you do agree to,” Netanyahu said during a parliament session Thursday.

In response, former prime minister and opposition leader Yair Lapid said: “If unity of the people is important to you – stop [the judicial reform] and everything will balance out.”EFE