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Judicial Reform Protests

Israel now in its sixth week of protests, just ahead of first reading of judicial reforms proposal

Supporters and opponents of reform continue to exchange accusations

Israeli protesters rally on Ayalon Highway during a protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new government, in Tel Aviv, Feb. 11, 2023. (Photo: Gili Yaari /Flash90)

Thousands of Israelis gathered throughout Israel for the sixth consecutive week of protests against the government’s proposed judicial reforms.

The first reading – featuring some of the proposals – is set for Monday, following a decision last week by Israeli Justice Minister Yariv Levin to split up the proposed reforms and to vote on them in parts.

Last Wednesday, Knesset Member Simcha Rothman, head of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, announced the first reading of the reforms for Monday, once again drawing crowds of demonstrators – the largest in Tel Aviv – with another large organized protest in Jerusalem, as well as smaller gatherings scattered across Israel.

As the reform’s first reading approaches, there has been an escalation of accusations from opponents, including former Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who called the reforms an “earthquake that threatens to destroy our home.”

Livni further accused Netanyahu of “attempting to escape justice,” accompanied by “messianic accomplices who are driven by revenge and hatred.”

Former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz accused Netanyahu of creating “a dictatorship,” and warned that many Israelis would not want to serve in the military if the proposed reforms are passed.

Meanwhile, members of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition have returned accusations, saying that opponents are ready to stir up opposition to the reforms but not willing to engage in dialogue.

“The Likud [party] and the minister of justice are ready for talks and are prepared to make changes to the plan, but no one on the other side of the political map is currently prepared for either dialogue or amendments,” said Israeli Communications Minister Miki Zohar during an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 news. “They are only interested in stopping the reform.”

Zohar noted that, even after the first reading, it would likely take “weeks, if not months” for the second and third readings to pass. This would give plenty of “time for dialogue, time for discussion,” he argued, adding that the coalition “will agree to amendments in the reform, but not to stopping it and not to a revolutionary change.”

In a statement released Sunday, Levin condemned Israeli Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara and Supreme Court Chief Esther Hayut of trying to “carry out a coup” against Netanyahu.

“An attempt to oust a prime minister against the law, while trampling on democratic choice, is no different from a putsch carried out with tanks,” Levin said.

A former Israeli security official expressed concern about the level of rhetoric in the country at this time.

Hagai Tal, former head of Israel’s security agency, Shin Bet, said the current situation reminds him of November 1995, when then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s was assassinated.

“Things are going in the wrong direction, and I hope for compromise,” Tal said, “a way that will join together the different sides. Everyone is certain that they are right and the other is wrong, and – like always – the truth is somewhere in the middle.”

Tal also called out the role of social media in the current political environment.

“The discourse is more extreme than ever, and social media – which was not around in 1995 – only fans the flames and turns into a blitz of comments and reactions.”

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

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