TEL AVIV, Saturday, February 4, 2023 (WAFA) – Tens of thousands of Israelis demonstrated for the fifth week in a row tonight against judicial reform plans by Benjamin Netanyahu's new far-right government that critics say threaten democratic checks on ministers by the courts.
The plans have drawn fierce opposition from leftist groups, and raised concerns among business leaders, widening already deep political divisions in Israeli society.
Netanyahu has downplayed the protests as a refusal by leftist opponents to accept the results of the last election, which produced one of the most right-wing governments in Israel's history.
The protesters say if the government goes ahead with the judicial reform plans, ‘Israeli democracy’ would be undermined which would limit the Supreme Court's powers to overturn government decisions or Knesset laws.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid joined demonstrations in Haifa, while former army minister Benny Gantz joined the protests in occupied Jerusalem.
Last month, Yariv Levin, justice minister in Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing government, announced a plan to hand more powers to lawmakers in appointing judges and overriding Supreme Court decisions.
Critics believe Levin's reforms would cripple judicial independence, foster corruption, set back minority rights and compromise the credibility of the courts system. Among those opposed are the Supreme Court chief justice and the country's attorney-general, while critics of the Supreme Court say it is overreaching and unrepresentative of the electorate.
The anti-Netanyahu Black Flag movement said earlier this month that Netanyahu was pushing the reforms to escape potential repercussions of his ongoing corruption trial, saying he was destroying democratic institutions by harming the justice system and campaigning against High Court Justices.