‘I don’t want Israel to become a dictatorship’: Thousands rally in Jerusalem to oppose judicial reform

‘Anyone who cares about Israel should strike today’ – here is the title of the editorialHa’aretz Monday, February 13, the left-wing Israeli daily newspaper. In Israel, a national strike movement was launched to express dissatisfaction with the reform of the judicial system.

Proposed by the new coalition, the most right-wing in the country’s history, it would significantly limit the ability of the Supreme Court to invalidate laws and government decisions. Monday, while a first reading of some of the controversial provisions takes place, 70,000 demonstrators gathered in Jerusalem, in front of the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament: a tide of blue and white flags, songs, the sound of saucepans.

“Too much power in the hands of the government”

Among the demonstrators, young people, older people, families, and above all Israelis from all walks of life with one thing in common: their opposition to this judicial reform and this new government.

Schlomit, 69, came specially from Tel Aviv. “We are in very great danger of turning our democracy into a monarchy or an undemocratic regime”, she believes. “We saw what happened in Hungary, in Turkey, in Poland. The separation of powers will break down, and there will be too much power in the hands of the government, warns Schlomit. They already work very quickly with a very brutal attitude. They are not even ready to listen to the opposition!”

Same story with Réguev, Israeli musician in his thirties, also from Tel Aviv. “I don’t want Israel to become a dictatorship.” According to him, this reform “will change the separation of powers”. “It will give considerable strength to the government, he warns. Maybe we will still have elections, yes, but no more separation of powers like in democratic countries.”

Regev holds a sign in Hebrew and Arabic: “a thought for the Palestinians”he said. “We cannot speak of democracy if we rule over a few million people who do not have the most basic civil rights”he complains. “They don’t have a vote on the government. We control all the territory, and in fact it’s already apartheid.” “We know very well why Netanyahu wants to weaken the judicial system”he adds, in reference to his trial for corruption.

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Weekly events for more than a month

This demonstration is mainly a continuation of the weekly demonstrations, which began in Tel Aviv six weeks ago. Binyamin Netanyahu returned to power at the end of December. Its Minister of Justice announced in early January this controversial reform project which aims to increase the power of elected officials over that of magistrates. This reform would significantly limit the ability of the Supreme Court to invalidate laws and government decisions.

So in Jerusalem, in Tel Aviv, in Haïfa, the Israelis who oppose it demonstrate every Saturday evening. Opposition MPs are also mobilized. Even President Isaac Herzog addressed the nation in a televised address and called for dialogue to end the “polarization” which divides the country.

In a way, with this reform we find ourselves again in the scenario that has dominated Israeli politics in recent years: for or against Benyamin Netanyahu.

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