30,000 march in Tel Aviv against ‘coup d’état’ Levin judicial reform

The Saturday protest follows a rally in front of the home of Levin on Friday by hundreds of activists from the Darkenu civil society movement.

Thousands of protestors gather in Tel Aviv to protest against the new Israeli government and Justice Minister Yariv Levin's plans for judicial reform, January 7, 2023 (CREDIT: OMDIM BYAHAD)

Thousands of activists gathered in Tel Aviv to protest Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s proposed judicial reforms on Saturday night, describing the plan as a “dangerous coup d’état.”

Around 30,000 people assembled at HaBimah Square, spilling out onto nearby streets. The protesters waved Israeli and LGBTQ+ pride flags, and raised banners against Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government. The activists marched to the Tel Aviv Museum, where leaders gave speeches. A second march set out after the speeches.

"The coup d'état will encounter a nation of Israel determined to guard our democracy - and [the reforms] will fail."

Black Flag movement

A rallying call from some activists said that the march would warn the government that the reforms would not be passed without unprecedented civil resistance.

“Extremists and dangerous actors in the newly established government are already planning how to hurt all of us,” said left-wing peace activist NGO Standing Together. “How to deepen racial discrimination against Arab citizens, how to cut social budgets, how to discriminate based on gender. We won’t sit home and hold hands and give in to despair and frustration. Where there is struggle, there is also hope. And we will go out and struggle for our home.”

The anti-Netanyahu Black Flag movement said that “the coup d’état will encounter a nation of Israel determined to guard our democracy – and [the reforms] will fail.

 Thousands of protestors gather in Tel Aviv to protest the new government and the proposed judicial reforms of Justice Minister Yariv Levin, January 7, 2023. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV) Thousands of protestors gather in Tel Aviv to protest the new government and the proposed judicial reforms of Justice Minister Yariv Levin, January 7, 2023. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

“It’s possible to stop the revolution in the streets, by shutting down the economy and paralyzing the State of Israel by all legal means,” said the Black Flags.” Today we are starting the most important journey: A preventative strike against dictatorship.”

Yael Lotan and Avner Gvaryahu, co-CEOs of Breaking the Silence, said that the protesters were building a new democratic camp, “One where Jews and Arabs, women and men, straight and LGBT, secular and religious, are united against one evil government and for a better future for this place.”

Labor Party chairman Merav Michaeli was seen among the demonstrators, offering her support.

“Together with thousands of wonderful protesters we went to demonstrate and shout in a clear voice – We won’t allow our country to be ruined!” Michaeli tweeted. “We will continue to fight for our democracy.”

Former vice prime minister Tzipi Livni also attended, posting praise for the protesters on social media.

On Friday, she blasted Netanyahu’s government at a Movement for Quality Government conference, saying “The government is turning the gatekeepers into ministerial guards, and the legal advisers into lawyers on behalf of them. They have created delegitimization and also enmity against those they call officials.”

Protests outside of Yariv Levin's home

The Saturday protest follows a rally in front of the home of Levin on Friday by hundreds of activists from the Darkenu civil society movement, who claimed that the High Court served as a “flak jacket” to protect IDF soldiers from being brought to the International Criminal Court.

“The Override Clause and Levin’s moves to weaken the justice system would hurt IDF soldiers, and hurting our soldiers is a red line,” Darkenu CEO and former Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria warned. “We demand from Minister Yariv Levin not to abandon our soldiers to the Hague.”

The ICC announced an investigation in 2020 into war crimes allegations in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. However, December’s annual court reports showed little to no movement on the investigation.

 Thousands of protestors gather in Tel Aviv to protest the new government and the proposed judicial reforms of Justice Minister Yariv Levin, January 7, 2023. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV) Thousands of protestors gather in Tel Aviv to protest the new government and the proposed judicial reforms of Justice Minister Yariv Levin, January 7, 2023. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

Levin announced his legal reform proposal on Wednesday. The reforms touch on several items that were a point of contention and debate during campaigning for the 2022 general election.

In the plan, Levin called for the regulation of judicial review, the end of the “reasonableness” clause, end of insubordination of government legal advisers and add more political representatives on the committee that selects judges.

The Override Clause, which has already garnered much controversy, was also a central feature of the reform. The clause would allow a simple majority of MKs to overturn decisions by the High Court.

Supporters of the reforms contend that the Attorney-General’s Office and High Court have too much power, and have said that such policies would tip the balance in the favor of the democratically-elected Knesset.

The Black Flag movement promised to continue the protests next Saturday.