More mass protests in Israel over plans to reform the judicial system

Protests over the planned reforms have been going on for weeks
Protests over the planned reforms have been going on for weeks   -  Copyright  Ohad Zwigenberg/AP
By Mark Armstrong  with AP

Tens of thousands of Israelis protested in front of parliament in Jerusalem as the vote began on judicial reforms that critics say will undermine democracy

Tens of thousands of Israelis rallied again on Monday in front of the parliament in Jerusalem as the vote began on the judicial reform proposed by Benjamin Netanyahu's new government.

The protesters, along with many others in the country, say the reform would erode the separation of powers and weaken the formal foundations of Israeli democracy, granting excessive power to the Executive.

Under the plans, the government would be able to overrule the country's Supreme Court with a simple majority vote in the Knesset. 

Today is the first step to transform Israel from a democracy into another type of power
Har Hadar
Israeli protester

Thousands of demonstrators also gathered in Tel Aviv and other cities to voice their opposition to the plan as lawmakers prepared to hold an initial vote.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies, a collection of ultra-religious and ultranationalist lawmakers, say the plan is meant to fix a system that has given the courts and government legal advisers too much say in how legislation is crafted and decisions are made.

But critics see the reform as an attack on democracy.

"These changes will impact women, LBGTQ, all the sectors of the population, everyone," explained one of the demonstrators who gave his name as Holon. "And those who don't understand that, well, that's a problem per se."

Kovi Skier, a lawyer from Givat Shmuel in central Israel, is also opposed to the changes: "I wish I could say I was optimistic, I don’t know if it’s going to stop the legislation. But at least people will know that it doesn’t represent us."

And Adi Aran, a pediatric critical care physician from Har Hadar, says she fears for the future: "Today is the first step to transform Israel from a democracy into another type of power. We still don't know what it will be, but it won't be a democracy."

The standoff has plunged Israel into one of its greatest domestic crises, sharpening a divide between Israelis over the character of their state and the values they believe should guide it.

Israel’s figurehead president, Isaac Herzog, has urged the government to freeze the legislation and seek a compromise with the opposition.

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