Tel Aviv [Israel]: Protests were held across Israel, on Saturday night (Local Time), for the 27th straight weekend against the government’s plan to overhaul the judiciary with a legislation package that would roll back some Supreme Court powers and give the coalition decisive sway in picking judges, The Times of Israel reported.
Over 140,000 people gathered in Tel Aviv, and tens of thousands more in other locations, Crowd assessment company Crowd Solutions, based on aerial footage, told Channel 13. The protests come just before the bill to lessen judicial oversight of the executive and legislative branches will get its first reading in the Knesset, the national legislature, on Monday.
Protest leaders have pledged further to intensify their opposition to the government’s renewed efforts, and were hoping for a show of force as they voice increasing anger over the coalition’s plan to pass in its first Knesset reading a bill to remove courts’ ability to rule on the “reasonableness” of governmental decisions.
Speaking at the main demonstration in Tel Aviv, world-renowned Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari said, “The time to stop the Netanyahu government is now.”
“We are allowed to and must be angry for what the Netanyahu government is doing to the Israeli dream,” he said, and if the government does not stop, it “will learn what happens when we are angry.”
Speaking at a large rally outside the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, Canadian-born Israeli author and journalist Matti Friedman warned that Israel, potentially, could turn into a failed state like Lebanon, torn apart by corruption and internal division. But, he insisted, this would not be allowed to happen, according to The Times of Israel.
Ahead of the protests, police said the protesters would uphold the right to demonstrate but they will not tolerate riots, damage to any infrastructure or the symbols of government, and harm to police officers.
After the main Tel Aviv rally ended, some demonstrators descended to the Ayalon Highway and blocked it in both directions for a short time. Footage published by Hebrew-language media outlets showed a motorcyclist hitting protesters. The reports claimed he pulled a knife out at one point.
Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, earlier this year, called to pause the judicial overhaul, citing a “tangible danger” to state security, as hundreds of military reservists threatened to stop showing up for duty, in protest of the contentious legislation.
This led Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to fire him, a decision that set off intense protests and strikes and swiftly led Netanyahu to freeze the entire overhaul plan for months and renege on Gallant’s removal, reported The Times of Israel.