Tens of thousands of people protested against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial makeover on Saturday, calling for its complete cancellation despite the embattled leader’s decision to suspend it this week.
In order to facilitate negotiations on a compromise between his religious-nationalist coalition and opposition parties, Netanyahu delayed the reform on Monday. He was plagued by the domestic upheaval as well as comments of worry and displeasure in Washington.
“We don’t believe anything that comes out of Bibi’s (Netanyahu) mouth. We believe it’s just a political stunt aimed at stopping the protest,” said Emanuel Keller, 30, at a protest outside the Israeli presidential residence hosting the talks.
One of the main points of contention is the ruling coalition’s push for more power in appointing judges, including to the Supreme Court.
Critics see the government’s drive as a threat to the court’s independence and an attempt at a legal coup. Proponents say it is seeking a less elitist, interventionist bench.
Netanyahu, on trial on corruption charges he denies, says reforms are needed to balance the branches of government. His Likud party and political allies in the far-right have been calling on their political base to stage counter demonstrations.
Israeli media estimated more than 150,000 people attended anti-government protests nationwide on Saturday, the largest in commercial hub Tel Aviv.
“We’re going to win because this is not something that we can live with. We cannot live in a state that is not democratic,” said Limor Moyal, at the Tel Aviv demonstration.