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26 Mar, 2023 10:50

Massive wave of protests sweeps across Israel

An estimated 630,000 people demonstrated against the government’s proposed judicial reform

Hundreds of thousands of Israelis took to the streets across the country on Saturday to protest against the government’s controversial push to overhaul the judicial system.

The organizers of the massive demonstrations – which took place in cities including Jerusalem, Haifa, Beersheba, and Tel Aviv – announced on Friday a ‘Week of Paralysis’ to resist what they called an “attempt to turn Israel into a dictatorship.”

According to figures provided by the organizers, a total of 630,000 people attended the rallies. In Tel Aviv alone, which was the main venue for the activists, around 200,000 protesters gathered, local media said.

The protests were also marked by a stand-off with police, who used water cannons to disperse a crowd blocking the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv and detained 28 people. A group of lawyers providing legal assistance to the protesters claimed that a total of 44 activists were arrested.

Amid the massive protests, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warned that the issue of judicial reform has become increasingly divisive. “The deepening split is seeping into the military and defense institutions. This is a clear, immediate and real danger to Israel’s security,” he stated, urging the government to hold talks with the opposition.

Israel has been reeling under protests for months, triggered by the plans of Netanyahu’s cabinet to limit the power of the Supreme Court to rule against the legislative and executive branches of government, while granting the governing coalition a majority on the committee that appoints judges.

On Monday, however, Netanyahu’s coalition dialed back its proposed reform, decreasing the number of government representatives on the judicial committee. This came after a call with US President Joe Biden, who “offered support for efforts underway to forge a compromise on proposed judicial reforms consistent” with the core principles of democratic societies, including checks and balances.