13th week of anti-overhaul protests: ‘As in Poland, government is just reorganizing’

Massive protests against the government’s attempts to capitulate the judiciary were set to continue on Saturday night, with demonstrations set to take place across the country for the 13th week in a row, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announcing a pause. in the legislative blitz.

Protests, which ended a turbulent week in Israel, were planned for around 150 venues, with the central rally to take place in Tel Aviv.

Organizers noted that hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets in recent weeks to protest the controversial overhaul, and called for the demonstrations to continue.

Protest leaders compared the pause announced by Netanyahu to the situation in Poland in 2017, when the President silenced protests against judicial reform with vetoes and calls for unity, before later enacting nearly identical legislation.

“Just like in Poland, the government has time to reorganize to pass the judicial coup. It is the people’s job to stand up and protest to protect democracy,” protest leaders said in a statement.

Poland’s deputy foreign minister Pawel Jablonski said on Monday that Israel had consulted with his country on reforming the judicial system, following past moves by Poland to limit the authority of the judiciary, and constitutional scholars from Poland and Hungary, two countries seen to have made a democratic backsliding in recent years, warned that Israel was facing the same dangers.

The main rally was to start on Saturday evening with a 6:30pm march from 1 Rothschild Boulevard to the central exhibition on Tel Aviv’s Kaplan Street.

Events on the stage were decided to start after 7:30 pm, to allow those who observe Shabbat to participate.

Speakers at the central rally will include former head of the intelligence directorate Major General (Res.) Amos Malka, constitutional law expert Dafna Holtz-Lavie, CEO of the Ethiopian Jewish Association Rinah Eilin Gorlick and Yossi Levy, former spokesperson to the Prime – Minister Benjamin. Netanyahu.

Yossi Levy speaks with Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, December 15, 2008 (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Organizers said the public must “launch an overwhelming response to the violence and incitement of the prime minister, his family and colleagues,” after supporters of the overhaul attacked an Arab taxi driver, anti- reforms, journalists and people who have been going overseas in the past few days. .

“As happened during the founding of Israel, we are living in historic times, a real time of crisis,” they said in a statement.

Organizers of the protests said that recent comments by Justice Minister Yariv Levin showed that the coalition had no serious intention of reaching a compromise on the controversial judicial overhaul.

“Anyone who has read the statements made by the Minister of Justice and other senior officials understands that, unfortunately, they do not want to reach broad agreements, but that they want to buy time to undermine the protest, ” said the organizers.

Levin said on Wednesday that he would resume efforts to pass the hard-right coalition’s judicial reform after the upcoming Passover break, prompting claims that talks were aimed at reaching a broad consensus on the legislation that is now frozen in used as a fig leaf.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Justice Minister Yariv Levin at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on March 27, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Netanyahu announced he was suspending the legislation on Monday as opposition to the judicial overhaul intensified with mass spontaneous protests that saw hundreds of thousands take to the streets, followed by a national strike. after he shot Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who warned of the security implications. of the coalition’s proposals and asked that talks be stopped.

The premier indicated that the “time out” would last until the next session of the Knesset begins on April 30, meaning that the break will mostly take place when the Knesset would be in recess anyway .

Senior officials involved in the talks on Friday, however, said the negotiations were already dead in the water because the coalition insisted that the Judicial Selection Committee would control it.

That demand is a non-starter for the opposition, essentially ending the chances for negotiations before the talks get off the ground, officials involved in the process told Channel 12.

The attorney general has warned that the coalition’s current legislative package — which would give the coalition almost total control over all judicial appointments, and severely restrict the High Court — would give the government almost unlimited power, with no institutional safeguards provide for individual rights or individual rights. for the democratic character of Israel.

Israelis opposed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial reform plan set bonfires and blocked a highway during moments of protest after the Israeli leader fired his defense minister, in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

On Friday, hundreds of anti-reform demonstrators picketed outside the homes of Levin, Economy Minister Nir Barkat, Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter and MK David Bitan – all Likud – trying to put further pressure on them.

More than a hundred people also gathered outside the house of the chairman of the National Unity Benny Gantz, who was the most vocal opposition lawmaker in favor of a compromise with the coalition government. The protesters urged him not to do so, chanting slogans such as, “you have no mandate to compromise democracy.”

Thousands also protested the renovation of Ben Gurion Airport, holding signs reading, “welcome to the dictatorship.”

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