TEL AVIV – Tens of thousands of Israelis protested on Saturday against a controversial plan to revamp the country’s legal system, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s suspension of the changes earlier in the week.
The protesters gathered in Tel Aviv, Israel’s commercial hub on the Mediterranean, for the 13th weekly demonstration, raising Israeli flags and banners against what they said were plans to weaken the Supreme Court. Several smaller rallies took place in other towns and cities.
The protests have been going on since Netanyahu’s government, the most right-wing in the country’s history, introduced the changes.
But on Monday, Netanyahu delayed the overhaul plan that deeply divided the Israelis, saying he wanted “to avoid civil war” by making time to seek a compromise with political opponents. Protest organizers, however, vowed to keep up the pressure, calling for the plans to be scrapped.
The proposal has plunged Israel into its worst domestic crisis in decades. Business leaders, top economists and former security chiefs have all come out against the plan, saying it is pushing the country toward an autocracy. Fighter pilots and military reservists have threatened not to report for duty, and the country’s currency, the shekel, has tumbled in value.
The plan would give Netanyahu, who is on trial on corruption charges, and his allies the final say in appointing the nation’s judges. It would also give parliament, which is controlled by his allies, authority to overturn Supreme Court decisions and limit the court’s ability to review laws.
Netanyahu has argued that the overhaul is needed to rein in a liberal and overly interventionist court of unelected judges. But his opponents say the package would damage the country’s system of checks and balances by concentrating power in the hands of Netanyahu’s allies. They also say that he has a conflict of interest as a criminal defendant.