Thousands of Israelis protest against government's judicial overhaul

Thousands of Israelis protest against government's judicial overhaul

Contentious plan spearheaded by Prime Minister Netanyahu has sparked 29 weeks of mass protests

By Enes Canli

TEL AVIV (AA) - Tens of thousands of Israelis protested across the country on Saturday ahead of a vote on the bill that would limit the Supreme Court from using the standard of “reasonableness” to strike down government decisions.

A contentious judicial overhaul plan spearheaded by Prime Minister Netanyahu has sparked 29 weeks of mass protests. The overhaul also calls for changing the way judges are selected.

The premier's allies say the package is meant to restore power to elected officials, but critics argue it is a power grab by Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption charges.

While the protesters carrying Israeli flags rallied at over 150 locations nationwide, others made their way to the parliament in Jerusalem, culminating a four-day, 70km march from Tel Aviv. The demonstrators gathered in a park near the Israeli parliament and set up tents.

In Tel Aviv, hosting the largest demonstration, protesters gathered in front of the government complex on Kaplan Street.

Opposition leaders, including former Prime Minister Yair Lapid, also joined demonstrations in different parts of the country. He warned of serious harm to the military if a bill to curb judicial oversight over government decisions passes.

“There are only two possibilities for the government in the coming days: Destroy the country or destroy itself ...,” he said.

- Timeline

Netanyahu’s government took office in December and on Jan. 5, Justice Minister Yariv Levin unveiled its judicial overhaul plans.

But when protests sprang up in major cities, and military reservists threatened to stop reporting for duty if it passed, Netanyahu paused the overhaul in March and entered talks with opposition lawmakers.

After talks broke down last month, Netanyahu announced in June the overhaul would move forward, and brought to the Knesset (parliament) for a second and third vote on July 24.

According to an Israeli TV report, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is working to try and delay the Knesset vote amid unprecedented opposition from within the military and growing protests.

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