Tens of Thousands of Israelis Protest Gov’t Plan To Weaken High Court
Up to 100,000 Israeli citizens opposed to an overhaul of the judicial system proposed by the new far-right government held mass protests Saturday night in several cities across Israel.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog said in a statement released Sunday morning that he was “working full time, by every means,” to bring the supporters and opponents of judicial reform together for “wide-reaching, attentive, and respectful discussion and dialogue.” But. he said, “I humbly admit that I am not certain of this endeavor’s success.”
Responding to the thousands of protesters who gathered in front of his official residence in Jerusalem Saturday night, calling on him to speak out against moves that critics say will fatally weaken Israeli democracy, Herzog’s statement said, “I respect the criticism toward me, but I am now focused on two critical roles that I believe I bear as president at this hour: averting a historic constitutional crisis and stopping the continued rift within our nation.”
The crowd in Jerusalem held Israeli flags, called on the president to “wake up, the country is burning,” and chanted slogans such as “Who will protect the minorities?”
Protesters chant, “Who will protect the minorities?” at a demonstration against judicial reforms proposed by the new Israeli government, in front of the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, Jan. 14, 2022. (Steven Ganot/The Media Line)
The largest demonstration took place in a rainy Tel Aviv, where an estimated 80,000 people gathered at Habima Square despite a downpour of rain. Attendees included three former IDF chiefs of staff turned politicians: Benny Gantz, Gadi Eisenkot and Ehud Barak. The head of the United Arab List party, Mansour Abbas, and Labor party leader Merav Michaeli were also present.
The protesters in Tel Aviv held signs featuring messages such as “Stop the craziness – fight for our country” and “Governance is not tyranny.”
Israeli Justice Minister Yariv Levin announced last week a series of proposed far-reaching reforms, including allowing the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, to override Supreme Court rulings; giving politicians from the ruling coalition de facto control over the selection of new justices; and canceling the justices’ ability to intervene when they judge an action by the government to be unreasonable.