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Judicial reform protests continue for 16th straight week as Israel is set to observe Memorial Day and Independence Day

With the Knesset scheduled to resume next week, tensions are building again

Bereaved families and Israelis stand next to memorial candles during a protest against the Israeli government's planned judicial overhaul, in Tel Aviv, Apr. 22, 2023. (Photo: Erik Marmor/Flash90)

As Israel prepares to observe Memorial Day and Independence Day this week – Tuesday and Wednesday – and in the midst of a temporary halt on judicial reform legislation during the Knesset break, protests against the judicial reforms continued last night. 

As in previous weeks, the largest protest took place in Tel Aviv, where protestors gathered on Kaplan Street for a central rally. 

Police said they began preparations for the protest on Friday, organizing alternate routes for traffic during the protests, in particular. 

With the demonstration happening just days before Memorial Day, when the State of Israel honors fallen soldiers and victims of terror attacks, this protest was different from previous ones. As bereaved families lit candles, and groups sang songs to honor soldiers who died in service of their country, the crowd's overall mood was more somber than previous rallies.  

Waving the Israeli flag that has come to symbolize the protest movement in the past few weeks by displaying signs to honor fallen soldiers, the protestors showed their resolve to continue the movement which began four months ago. 

Opposition head Yair Lapid and protest leaders said the protests were working. 

"If you hadn't taken to the streets, the disaster would have already happened. Israel would have been no longer democratic,” Lapid told the crowds at the rally in Hod Hasharon. 

Protest organizers claimed that around 380,000 people came out across Israel to protest the judicial reforms. 

At the same time, thousands of people also gathered in counter protests across the country, also waving Israeli flags, but carrying signs that read: “The people chose judicial reform.” 

Israeli Justice Minister Yariv Levin has called on judicial reform supporters to gather on Thursday night for a “million-man” counter protest in Jerusalem. 

Levin commented before that most supporters of the reform don’t feel the need to protest. However, as protests against the reforms have continued unabated, Levin along with coalition partners like Bezalel Smotrich, called on supporters to come out and demonstrate their support for the reforms. 

"On Thursday at 7:00 p.m. we will all go to Jerusalem to stand between the Knesset building and the Supreme Court building, and say with an unprecedented intensity: The people demand judicial reform,” Levin wrote.

He also referred to the coalition’s election majority, saying, “Our voice is equal and the mandate received by the right-wing government must be realized. I will be there, and I call on each and every one of you not to stay at home. Come out. Demonstrate. Influence. Change." 

With the Knesset set to return from its month-long break on April 30, and with ongoing negotiations for a compromise, many in the opposition are concerned the coalition will try to push through the reforms next week. 

Israeli President Isaac Herzog, who has been hosting the compromise talks between the coalition and opposition, said there is hope for a compromise. 

Herzog noted that while he is not “naïve,” he is optimistic. 

“I sit with all the leaders and the participants, and there is a large majority that want compromise and understanding,” Herzog said in an interview with Kan news, referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“In my conversations with Netanyahu, he returns that [idea], and I am giving that an opportunity,” Herzog commented. 

However, Herzog also indicated that the negotiations were under threat from “certain groups.”  

While he did not name which party or individual he was referring to, he said there were participants who were “trying to pull the rug out from under the negotiations." 

Herzog said that “whoever tries to sabotage and hurt it [the negotiations], will be historically responsible for the fate of the people and the nation.” 

“I also obviously know,” he said, “to whom I have to impose responsibility [for that].” 

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

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