Over 100,000 Israelis gather in Tel Aviv to protest Netanyahu government’s judicial reforms

Former Prime Minister Yair Lapid addresses massive Tel Aviv gathering, as demonstrators protest planned changes to Israel’s judicial system.

By Associated Press and World Israel News Staff

Tens of thousands of Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv on Saturday night to protest plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government to overhaul the judicial system.

Israeli media, citing police, said some 100,000 people were out protesting.

The protest followed a demonstration last week that also drew tens of thousands in an early challenge to Netanyahu and his government.

The government says a power imbalance has given judges and government legal advisers too much sway over lawmaking and governance. Netanyahu has pledged to press on with the changes despite the opposition.

According to legal expert Professor Eugene Kontorovich,the High Court’s dramatic ruling disqualifying Shas leader Aryeh Deri from his ministerial position shows the need for “urgent reform” of the judiciary, since striking down the appointment was based not on law but on the court’s own “notions of propriety.”

“That the Supreme Court can dismantle an elected coalition based not on the law, but on its own notions of propriety, powerfully illustrates the need for urgent reform,” Kontorovich said.

‘We have a problem’

Protesters filled central streets in the seaside metropolis, raising Israeli flags and banners that read “Our Children will not Live in a Dictatorship” and “Israel, We Have A Problem.”

“This is a protest to defend the country,” said opposition leader and former Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who joined the protest. “People came here today to protect their democracy.”

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“All generations are concerned. This is not a joke,” said Lior Student, a protester. “This is a complete redefinition of democracy.”

Other protests took place in the cities of Jerusalem, Haifa and Beersheba.

In addition to the protests, pressure has built up on Netanyahu’s government after the country’s attorney general asked Netanyahu to fire Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, a key Cabinet ally, following a Supreme Court ruling that disqualified him from holding a government post because of a conviction of tax offenses.

While Netanyahu was expected to heed the court ruling, it only deepened the rift in the country over the judicial system and the power of the courts.

Earlier this week, Netanyahu vowed to continue with the judicial overhaul plans despite the protests.

On Friday, Netanyahu’s coalition was put for a new test after a disagreement between Cabinet members over the dismantling of an unauthorized outpost in Samaria.

Defense Minister Yoav Galant, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, ordered the removal of the outpost, upsetting Minister in the Defense Ministry Bezalel Smotrich, who had issued a directive to postpone the eviction pending further discussions.