| 7 December 2023, Thursday |

Israelis protest planned judicial overhaul ahead of 75th independence day

Thousands of Israelis demonstrated against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposals to tighten oversight of the Supreme Court in advance of Israel Independence Day, which will mark the 75th anniversary of the creation of the Jewish state.

Due to a wave of strikes and large-scale protests, the plans were put on hold last month. The most recent demonstrations against them occur as Israelis prepare to observe Israeli independence day and Israeli memorial day, which honors those slain in the country’s conflicts and terrorist assaults.

“My father was killed on Yom Kippur War,” 53-year-old photographer Miri Pinchuk told Reuters. “He gave his life for this country, because he was raised up also with the belief that it’s going to be a democracy.”

The proposals would give the government effective control over appointment of Supreme Court judges and allow parliament to overrule many decisions of the court. They have caused one of the biggest domestic crises in Israel’s recent history.

The government accuses activist judges of increasingly usurping the role of parliament, and says the overhaul is needed to restore balance between the judiciary and elected politicians.

Critics say it will remove vital checks and balances underpinning a democratic state and hand unchecked power to the government.

“There is this sentence from the bible, from David’s lamentation, saying ‘How heroes fell’. And actually, the question now turns to instead of ‘How heroes fell?’, to ‘For what?’,” 63-year-old lawyer David Gilat told Reuters.

A poll released by Israel’s public broadcaster on Friday found the plans are deeply unpopular, with 53% saying they believe the plans will harm the country. Additionally, 60% of Israelis said the government does not represent them and 48% believe the situation in the country will continue to get worse.

In central Tel Aviv, for the 16th consecutive week, crowds gathered in a show of defiance against plans they see as an existential threat to Israeli democracy. They were waving the blue and white Israeli flags that have become a hallmark of the protests over the past three months.

  • Reuters