An estimated 80,000 Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv’s Habima Square in the pouring rain on Saturday night to protest the government’s plans to reform Israel’s judicial system. Earlier in the week there had been growing tension and harsh words between supporters and opponents of the dramatic move.
The organizers of the protest later stated that, according to their estimates, over 100,000 Israelis took part in the demonstration in Habima Square. Thousands of people also gathered in Haifa and in front of President Isaac Herzog’s official residence in Jerusalem, according to organizers.
During the protests in Jerusalem, police officers reportedly arrested several people waving Palestinian flags. In Tel Aviv, about 200 protesters tried to block the Ayalon Highway but were held back by police.
Hysteria, or fascism?
Speaking during the Tel Aviv demonstration, former Justice Minister Tzipi Livni painted a disturbing picture of the new government:
“A government in Israel went to war against the democratic institutions themselves in order to rule without restrictions. No debate, no legitimate criticism, but political seizure of power. No, elections do not give those in power a mandate to destroy democracy itself.
“Poison, lies, mutual slanders, calling anyone who thinks otherwise an enemy; all this so that we crumble to pieces and weaken as a society before the great onslaught, the dismantling of the ramparts of democracy on all fronts.”
Other speakers compared the judicial reform to the Nazi rise to power in Germany.
The people have decided
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a video on Friday calling on everyone to remain calm. “We discussed this before the elections and we received a clear mandate for it from the public,” Netanyahu explained in the video. “I suggest that everyone calm down and agree to a factual discussion.”
“When they say that the smallest reform is the destruction of democracy, not only is that a false claim, but it also denies the possibility of reaching an understanding through substantive dialogue in the Knesset,” Netanyahu added.
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