By Enes Canli
Tel Aviv (AA) - Thousands of people took to the streets in Israeli cities Saturday for a fifth straight week to protest the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu concerning proposed judicial reforms.
Demonstrators from non-governmental organizations, lawyers and technology sectors staged the protests/
Police closed roads leading to squares in Tel Aviv during the day and took security measures in the surrounding area.
Thousands of demonstrators of different ages carried Israeli flags on Eliezer Kaplan Street in downtown Tel Aviv.
They chanted "No to dictatorship" and "Democracy” as former politicians, artists and prominent figures took the roads.
About 50,000 people attended demonstrations in Tel Aviv, according to media reports.
- ‘There can be no democracy when there is occupation’
Demonstrators in Tel Aviv also protested Israel's occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and carried Palestinian flags and a banner that readL"A nation that occupies another nation can never be free."
Protestor Mischa Raichman told Anadolu that demonstrators wanted to "draw the attention of the crowd here to Israel's occupation.”
"If people do not talk about the occupation and we cannot end this occupation, there will be no democracy. There cannot be a democracy with occupation. These people are here to fight for democracy and against the government,” he said. "There can be no democracy when there is occupation."
He said demonstrators came to increase the number of people who stand against the occupation.
Amita Becker said she joined the demonstrations to protest the government's recent judicial regulation.
Asked to comment on some groups’ remarks, such as "Democracy cannot be achieved until the Israeli occupation is over," Becker said: "This is true. Because for democracy, both sides (Israelis and Palestinians) must be equal. “
"The occupation is a part of it, but not the whole picture. Occupation is one of the problems, but the reason we came to protest is not the occupation,” she said. "Arabs and Jews live in Israel and they should be equal to keep democracy alive."
- Police intervene to stop protesters from trying to block main road
A group of demonstrators tried several times to block the main road in Tel Aviv.
Police forcefully led the demonstrators astray and clashes broke out between police and demonstrators.
Protests also took place in Haifa 8,000 people demonstrations, according to Israeli media.
Demonstrators chanted: "Neither rain nor cold can stop this protest."
Oppositon leader Yair Lapid said in his address that demonstrators were trying to save the country. "We will fight on the streets, in the parliament, in the courts. We will save our country because we do not want to live in an undemocratic country," he said.
Anti-Netanyahu government protests were also held in European cities, including Paris and Munich, Israeli media reported.
-At least 35 Palestinians killed in 2023
The protests against the policies of the Netanyahu government came amid raising Israeli-Palestinian tensions in the West Bank.
On Jan. 28, a 13-year-old Palestinian launched an armed attack in the Silvan neighborhood of East Jerusalem, wounding two Israelis.
The Israeli army carried out a large-scale military offensive in the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank which left 10 dead, including a 60-year-old woman.
An attack on a synagogue in East Jerusalem killed seven people with seven injured.
Following the synagogue attack, a 22-year-old Palestinian died in East Jerusalem.
At least 35 Palestinians, including women and children, have been killed by İsraeli police since the beginning of 2023 in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
-Most radical change in system of government in Israel
Proposed by Justice Minister Yariv Levin, the reform, if enacted, would be the most radical change in the system of government in Israel.
The proposed changes will severely limit the power of the Supreme Court and give the government the power to choose judges and end the appointment of legal advisers to ministries by the attorney general.
But Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, said he received a mandate from millions of voters to carry out judicial reforms.
Netanyahu sacked Health and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri in January after the High Court found him unfit for the post.
The Court said Deri's appointment was "extremely unreasonable" due to his criminal past and the fact that he intentionally misled a court approximately a year ago when he promised he would not rejoin politics to receive a lenient plea bargain on tax offenses.
*Writing by Muhammed Enes Calli