Israel: Protesters take to streets in one of the biggest protests in its history
Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have taken part in what some are calling the biggest protest in the country’s history.
Ten weeks have passed since protests against the government’s plans to overhaul the judiciary system began.
In cities like Haifa, record numbers of demonstrators took to the streets. Around 200,000 people are believed to have marched in Tel Aviv.
Critics claim that the reforms will lead to a decline in democracy.
However, Benjamin Netanyahu’s government claims that planned changes are better for to electorate.
According to organizers, as many as 500,000 protesters for democracy marched on the streets of the country on Saturday in what Israeli Haaretz newspaper called the “largest demonstration in Israel’s history”.
Yair Lapid, the leader of the Opposition, told the crowds in Be’er Sheva about the country’s “greatest crisis in its history”.
“A wave of terrorism is hitting us, our economy is crashing, money is escaping the country. Iran just signed yesterday a new agreement with Saudi Arabia. But the only thing this government cares about is crushing Israeli democracy,” he said.
Tamir Guytsabry was a protester in Tel Aviv who told Reuters that it wasn’t a judicial reform. It’s a revolution [that] is making Israel go to full dictatorship, and I want Israel to stay a democracy to support my children.”
The protests against the judicial reforms have brought hundreds of thousands of people onto the streets.
The reforms aim to give the elected government decisive influence over the choice of judges and limit the ability of the Supreme Court to rule against the executive or strike down legislation.
The issue has caused deep divides in Israeli society and, significantly, has seen reservists – the backbone of Israel’s military – threatening to refuse to serve as a way of showing their opposition.
On Monday, in an unprecedented move, dozens of reserve fighter pilots in an elite Israeli Air Force squadron said they would not report for training. They later reversed course and agreed to attend and hold talks with their commanders.
On Thursday, protesters blocked roads and attempted to stop Mr. Netanyahu from flying out of the country. He later took off for Rome.
The government has stood firm in the face of the uproar, claiming the protests are being fuelled by political opponents.
Critics say the planned reforms, which are already making their way through parliament, will politicize the judiciary and could lead to an authoritarian government.
Mr. Netanyahu says the reforms are designed to stop the courts from overreaching their powers and that they were voted for by the Israeli public at the last election.