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'If we blink even for a moment, they will take advantage,' says former justice minister as judicial reform protests hit week 18

Protest leaders worry about protests ‘fervor’ cooling off

Israelis protest the government's planned judicial overhaul, outside the president's residence in Jerusalem, May 6, 2023. (Photo: Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Tens of thousands of protesters demonstrated against the government's judicial reforms for the 18th consecutive week.

As in previous weeks, demonstrators gathered at Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv for the main demonstration with other protests taking place in various locations around the country, including near the President's Residence in Jerusalem, where compromise talks are being held.

Hebrew news outlets estimate the turnout to be between 100,000 and 180,000 protestors in Tel Aviv.

While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paused the judicial reform legislation in March, protest organizers are concerned the fervor of the protestors will cool off and that the government could resume the legislation at any moment.

Some activists called on the opposition either to finalize agreements or cease negotiations with the coalition.

Protest organizers pressured opposition leaders Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz to end their participation in the talks, saying that the discussions are “a plot by Netanyahu to waste time in order to pass a budget.”

Among the speakers at Saturday night’s protest in Tel Aviv were former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, protest leader Shikma Bressler, attorney Nava Rozolyo, who is one of the movement’s central activists and Moshe Radman, a high-tech entrepreneur.

Livni warned protestors that “if we blink even for a moment, they will take advantage of the opportunity. Blink and the draft evasion law will pass.”

Opposition leader Yair Lapid, speaking at a demonstration in Rehovot, acknowledged activists' concerns.

“We will turn over every stone to see if there is a chance to reach a historic agreement that will accompany us a hundred years into the future, but we will not let them just bide their time to save their government,” he said.

Negotiations are set to resume again on Tuesday, with opponents calling for an agreement on the Judicial Selection Committee, one of the most controversial aspects of the proposed reforms.

The coalition is seeking to retain control of appointments to the Judicial Selection Committee, while the opposition is against changes that would give the Knesset control over the selection of judges and would like to keep the status quo.

Currently, the Judicial Selection Committee is comprised of nine members: The justice minister, another minister chosen by the Cabinet, two Knesset members (traditionally one from the coalition and one from the opposition), two members of the Bar Association and three current Supreme Court justices. Appointment of Supreme Court judges requires a majority of 7 of the 9 committee members and lower court judges through a simple majority of five.

Critics say the reforms would politicize the judiciary, undermining judicial independence by choosing judges affiliated with certain political camps.

Protest leaders announced they were cancelling this week’s planned ‘Day of Disruption’ due to low turnout at last Thursday’s event. However, they stressed that the cancellation "is not a capitulation."

The Israeli government also faces rising discontent on other fronts. A recent poll found high levels of disapproval over the government's handling of security, violent crime and the cost of living, including among coalition party voters.

A poll released Friday on Israel’s N12 news, showed that the general public gave a low approval rating for the government’s handling of the current security situation, with 76% of respondents rating it “overall poor.”

Approximately 60% of respondents rated the government’s handling of crime in Israel as “poor.”

The Jewish state has seen an increase in violent crime, especially in the Arab sector, over the last four months, compared to the previous year.

N12 did not provide details on the number of participants or the margin of error for the poll.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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