VBefore a crucial parliamentary vote, several hundred thousand people across Israel protested against the planned weakening of the judiciary. Channel 13 estimates that around 170,000 people gathered in the center of the coastal city of Tel Aviv on Saturday evening, and 85,000 in Jerusalem. According to media reports, there were occasional violent clashes with the police.
Organizers of the protests put the number of participants across the country at more than half a million. It would be one of the biggest protest days since regular demonstrations began in early January. Altogether, Israel has around ten million inhabitants.
Protest march from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem
A protest march attended by thousands of Israelis also arrived in Jerusalem on Saturday, reports the Reuters news agency. The several-kilometer-long column of protesters arrived in the city with blue and white Israeli flags.
Several hundred demonstrators set off on the approximately 70-kilometer hike in Tel Aviv on Tuesday evening. In the past few days, the kilometer-long protest march has grown in size. Along the way, the protesters camped outdoors at night and were provided with food and drink by local residents.
According to estimates by the Israeli broadcaster Channel 13, more than 70,000 people took part on Saturday. Your plan is therefore to spend Sunday night in front of Parliament. The so-called adequacy clause is to be debated there again on Sunday. The decisive vote in the second and third reading is then planned for Monday.
Demonstrations against judicial reform have been going on for weeks
Protest leader Shikma Bressler, when asked if she thought the protesters would succeed in stopping the vote, replied that she didn’t know. “But voting is not the final step,” she told Reuters news agency.
For 29 weeks, tens of thousands of people in Israel have been demonstrating against judicial reform every Saturday. On Thursday evening, there had already been clashes between demonstrators and the police during protests in Tel Aviv.
More than 1,100 Israeli Air Force reservists have threatened to suspend their voluntary service if parliament in Jerusalem passes the judicial reform. “We all have a collective responsibility to overcome deep divisions, polarization and rifts among the people,” 1,142 reservists said in a statement released on Friday.
They called on the government under Prime Minister Netanyahu to “find a broad consensus, to strengthen the trust of all sections of the people in the judicial system and to preserve its independence”. Any legislation executed in an “irrational manner would erode my willingness to continue risking my life and would force me, with great regret, to suspend my voluntary reserve duty,” the signatories, which include 235 fighter pilots, declared.
If MPs pass the law, they could remove the Supreme Court’s ability to declare government decisions “inappropriate” and thus overrule them. The clause is therefore considered to be one of the most controversial elements of the reform.