Anti-Israel: Half a million Israelis take to the streets against judicial reform

Jerusalem (CNN) Half a million Israelis took to the streets for the tenth consecutive week against plans by Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to overhaul the country’s judicial system, organizers said.

Israel’s population is just over 9 million, so if the organizers’ estimates are correct, about 5% of Israelis voted against the proposed reforms.

About half the protesters — about 240,000 — gathered in Tel Aviv, organizers said. In Jerusalem, several hundred demonstrators gathered in front of President Isaac Herzog’s home. They carried Israeli flags and shouted slogans such as ‘Israel will not become a totalitarian state’.

On Thursday, Herzog — whose role is largely ceremonial — urged the Netanyahu government to take the judicial reform law off the table.

Israelis took part in a rally in Tel Aviv on Saturday to protest sweeping changes to the country’s judiciary.

Opponents and critics of Netanyahu’s plan say This would weaken the country’s courts and erode the judiciary’s ability to check the power of other governments in the country.

The package of legislation would give Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, the power to overturn Supreme Court rulings with a simple majority. It would also give the government the power to appoint judges, currently made up of a panel of judges, jurists and politicians. It would remove power and independence from legal advisers to government ministries, and take away the power of courts to invalidate “unfair” government appointments, as the High Court did in January.

Demonstrators clashed with police during a protest in Tel Aviv on Saturday.

Critics accuse Netanyahu of pushing the law to avoid the corruption charges he is currently facing. Netanyahu denies that the trials are collapsing on their own and that changes are necessary after a judicial review by unelected judges.

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Israel does not have a written constitution, but a set of so-called Basic Laws.

“We behaved politely,” said Shikma Pressler, the leader of the Israeli opposition. “If the proposed laws are passed, Israel will no longer be a democracy.”

Two-thirds (66%) of Israelis believe the Supreme Court should have the power to strike down laws inconsistent with Israel’s constitution, and the same proportion (63%) say they support the current system of appointing judges. Last month’s vote for the Israel Democratic Institute.

“The only thing this government cares about is crushing Israeli democracy,” said opposition leader and former prime minister Yair Lapid.

CNN’s Michael Schwartz and Matthias Somm contributed to this report

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