Tel Aviv (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of Israelis joined protests on Saturday against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to tighten controls on the Supreme Court, ahead of Israel’s independence day marking 75 years since establishment of the Jewish state.
The plans were paused last month in the face of a wave of strikes and mass demonstrations. The latest protests against them come as Israelis are set to mark both Israeli independence day and Israeli memorial day, which commemorates those killed in Israel’s wars and in terror attacks.
“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.