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Hundreds of thousands of Israelis protest against governments judicial reforms in 12th week of rallies

Protests followed Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to London

Israelis protest against the Israeli government's planned judicial overhaul, in Haifa, Mar. 25, 2023. (Photo: Shir Torem/Flash90)

Hundreds of thousands of protestors took part in the 12th series of protest rallies on Saturday night, with around 200,000 protestors gathered in Tel Aviv closing roads, waving flags and carrying signs. 

Protest leaders estimated that more than 630,000 people attended rallies across the country this Saturday. 

During the main protest event, an announcement was made about Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, calling for a pause to the judicial reforms to allow for negotiations. As a member of the Likud party, Gallant’s call received mixed reactions, including support from four other Likud members and the opposition, while being criticized by key government figures. 

While many protestors cheered the announcement, protest leader Shikma Bressler reacted by saying, “We demand that the entire legislative package be scrapped.” 

After thousands streamed onto the Ayalon Highway, blocking it for hours, police used water cannons to disperse protestors from the highway, detaining about 30 individuals. 

Several dozen counter protestors also turned out in Tel Aviv on Saturday night, many holding signs which read: “We are the majority, you are the minority.” 

Hundreds of protestors blocked a main highway, Route 65, in northern Israel, with police detaining some individuals for disorderly conduct after they threw flares and blocked a busy junction.

The city of Or Akiva, where the Likud party won 47% of the votes in the November elections, was also a scene of opposing protests. Anti-reform protestors, who were outnumbered last week, brought reinforcements, but pro-reform protestors brought loudspeakers and drums. Despite the interaction of the two opposing groups, only three people were arrested for shoving, police reported. 

Opposition leaders Yair Lapid and Avigdor Liberman once again addressed the rallies. Lapid called for continued demonstrations and Liberman said he hoped the crisis would lead to “a good result – separation of religion and state, writing a constitution for Israel and founding a constitutional court.”

Liberman, who has himself called for judicial reforms, has spoken several times about the need for Israel to have a written constitution since the start of the protest. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in the United Kingdom over the weekend to meet with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to discuss shared concerns about the threat of a nuclear Iran, as well as the current progress on a bilateral, UK-Israeli trade agreement. 

Hundreds of protestors, including many Israeli expatriates, protested outside the Savoy Hotel in London where the Netanyahu and his wife were staying. The prime minister returned from London early Sunday morning, but has yet to respond officially to Gallant’s statement. 

Protest leaders are calling for a “Week of Paralysis” to try to stop the voting on reforms that is scheduled to take place this week, before the end of the winter Knesset session. 

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

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