Wednesday , March 22 2023

Thousands of Israelis protest against Netanyahu’s new gov’t


JERUSALEM: Thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets to protest plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government that they say threaten democracy and freedoms.

The protesters gathered in the city of Tel Aviv on Saturday, days after the most right-wing and religiously conservative government in the country’s 74-year history was sworn in. It plans sweeping reforms, from expanding illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank to weakening the power of the judiciary.

Protesters brandished signs with slogans including “Democracy in danger” and “Together against fascism and apartheid”.

Another banner read, “Housing, Livelihood, Hope.” Some protesters carried rainbow flags.

The protest was led by left-wing and Palestinian members of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. They slammed Justice Minister Yariv Levin, who on Wednesday unveiled the government’s long-promised overhaul of the judicial system that aims to weaken the country’s Supreme Court.

Critics accused the government of declaring war on the legal system, saying the plan will upend Israel’s system of checks and balances and undermine its democratic institutions by giving absolute power to the new governing coalition.

“We are really afraid that our country is going to lose the democracy and we are going to a dictatorship just for reasons of one person which wants to get rid of his law trial,” said Danny Simon, 77, a protester from Yavne, south of Tel Aviv.

He was referring to Netanyahu who was indicted on corruption charges in 2021, allegations the prime minister has denied.

Netanyahu, 73, has already served as prime minister longer than anyone in Israeli history, leading the country from 1996 to 1999 and from 2009 to 2021. His new government includes a politician who late last year admitted to tax evasion as well as several far-right personalities, such as one who once kept a portrait in his home of a man who massacred dozens of Palestinian worshippers.

Protesters on Saturday also called for peace and coexistence between Jews and Palestinian residents of the country.

“We can see right now many laws being advocated for against LGBTQ, against Palestinians, against larger minorities in Israel,” said Rula Daood of Standing Together, a grassroots movement of Palestinians and Jews.

“We are here to say loud and clear that all of us, Arabs and Jews and different various communities inside of Israel, demand peace, equality and justice.”

Earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s justice minister has unveiled a plan to overhaul the country’s judicial system and weaken the country’s Supreme Court.

Critics have accused the government of declaring war against the judiciary, saying the plan announced on Wednesday will upend Israel’s system of checks and balances and undermine democratic institutions by giving absolute power to the most right-wing coalition in Israel’s history.

Justice minister Yariv Levin, a confidant of Netanyahu and longtime critic of the Supreme Court, presented his plan a day before the justices are to debate a controversial new law on Thursday that allows a politician convicted of tax offences to serve as a Cabinet minister.

His proposals call for a series of sweeping changes aimed at curbing the powers of Israel’s high court, including by allowing legislators to pass laws the court has struck down and effectively deemed unconstitutional. (Int’l News Desk)

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