All Israel

Massive protests – with over 110,000 in Tel Aviv – continue, increase as government pushes judicial reform

Knesset committee looks to fast track legislation, according to one report

Over 100,000 Israelis protest against the proposed changes to the judicial system, in Tel Aviv, Jan. 21, 2023. (Photo: Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

For the third week in a row, tens of thousands of Israelis gathered on Saturday night to protest the government’s proposed judicial reforms, which many fear will strangle democracy and checks and balances in the Jewish state.

Some estimates put the number last night at 110,000 demonstrators, with the main protest taking place in Tel Aviv and smaller ones in Jerusalem, Haifa and Beersheva. These were in addition to Israelis abroad who protested in Boston, Barcelona and Toronto.

The massive protests have grown in number since they began three weeks ago. Last week, estimates had the Tel Aviv crowd at 80,000 and fewer the week before.

The protest was also attended this time by opposition leader and former Prime Minister Yair Lapid.

“This is a protest for the country," Lapid said. "People who love the country came here today to defend its democracy, defend its courts and defend the idea of shared life and shared good. There are Israel-loving people here who came to fight for a democratic Jewish state, according to the principles of the Declaration of Independence. We won't give up until we win.”

Several members of the opposition were present at the protests including Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

Gantz indicated that opposition members are willing to “come to agreements” but will continue to protest in the meantime to “protect our democracy.”

Knesset Member Merav Michaeli called the proposed changes a “coup d’état.”

Justice Minister Yariv Levin announced his plans for judicial reform in a press conference on Jan. 4. Levin proposed giving the coalition more say in selecting judges and granting the Knesset the ability to override Supreme Court decisions with a simple majority.

Meanwhile, the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee is looking to fast track the legislation, according to Israel’s Channel 12 news.

On Jan. 20, The Wall Street Journal editorial board published an op-ed noting, “The wisdom of the reform proposals varies, but it isn’t ‘antidemocratic’ to think Israel’s Supreme Court needs democratic checks on its power.”

“Unbound by any constitution, and loosed from requirements of standing and justiciability, Israel’s court strikes down laws that it finds merely ‘unreasonable,’ which can cover most anything,” the paper wrote.

“The danger is that the court will next reject as unreasonable any reforms to the court itself. Eminences in the West might cheer such a move all the way to a constitutional crisis. They would do better to concede that Israeli democracy has proved to be resilient, often under the most trying circumstances. If the Netanyahu government overreaches, the voters will get their say again.”

Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS

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