Some 100,000 Israelis protest against govt's judicial reforms

The protest made its way abroad as dozens of Israelis in Barcelona, Toronto and Boston protested.

 Some 100,000 people attended the protest against the government's judicial reforms. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
Some 100,000 people attended the protest against the government's judicial reforms.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

Some 100,000 people protested against the government's judicial reforms in Tel Aviv on Saturday night including Israeli politicians that oppose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The protest started on Kaplan Street and then turned into a march that went go through Menahem Begin, Parashat Drahim, Arlozorov, Derech Namir, Shaul Hamelech and Dovanov streets. The march will end at the Tel Aviv Governmental Complex.

Roads were closed from before 5 p.m., drawing outrage from protestors who claimed that the closures were being done so early to restrict protesting and stop them from being able to reach the location.

Who will attend the protest?

A number of organizations attended the protest including the Movement for Government Quality which held its own protest at Habima Square before joining the march at Kaplan.

Politicians who attended the protest included opposition leader Yair Lapid and MKs Benny Gantz and Merav Michaeli. Lapid spoke under the Azrieli bridge shortly before the protest began.

 Thousands protest in Tel Aviv against the government's judicial reforms. (credit: ISRAEL POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT) Thousands protest in Tel Aviv against the government's judicial reforms. (credit: ISRAEL POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

Other speakers at the demonstration included former defense minister and IDF chief of staff Moshe (Bougie) Ya'alon, former Deputy Attorney-General Dina Zilber, Israel bar Association president Avi Himi, and CEO and co-founder of Papaya Global Eynat Guez.

"What you see here is a protest for the country," said Lapid. "This is a protest for the country. People who love the country came here today to defend its democracy, defend its courts and defend the idea of shared life and shared good. There are Israel-loving people here who came to fight for a democratic Jewish state according to the principles of the Declaration of Independence. We won't give up until we win."

"I hope that you are on the way to the protest, and if you aren't, then get going," said Gantz. "We will protest legally. We want to protect our democracy, and public backup and the activity in protests are very important for our political struggle. We are ready to come to agreements, but we are not willing to destroy our democracy, and we will insist on that. So get going - Beersheba, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem. Were are all going out to the field."

"We mustn't compromise on this coup d'etat," said MK Merav Michaeli. "With this crazy and dangrous government, we cannot negotiate. There's no compromise on things that destroy Israel and its democracy. In this struggle, we have to be a united opposition. I call to my partners - don't be confused! Don't negotiate with Netanyahu who wants to destroy this place! We have to fight until we win."

The protest in Tel Aviv wasn't the only one on Saturday night. Some 5,000 protestors gathered in the Horev Center in Haifa to hold their own protest while hundreds gathered in Herzliya. Other protests were held in Haifa and Jerusalem.

Israelis abroad also protested with dozens in Boston, Barcelona and Toronto also protesting in their cities, calling to save Israeli democracy.

This is the third week in a row of protests since Justice Minister Yariv Levin announced his plans for the reform in a press conference on January 4. Some 30,000 protesters gathered the ensuing Saturday night, January 7, at Habima Square.

By last Saturday night, January 14, that number had ballooned to over 80,000, not including protests in Haifa and Jerusalem.

A number of factors contributed to the protests' intensification. The coalition showed that it was serious by wasting no time, and already on January 11 began to debate the reform in the Knesset; many politicians from the opposition, including party leaders Lapid, Gantz, Michaeli, Mansour Abbas and Ayman Odeh, called on Israeli citizens to join; some coalition MKs made inflammatory statements, such as threatening to incarcerate Lapid and Gantz; and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir intervened in the police's preparations for the protests and warned against attempts to "disturb the peace."

The plan's stated goal is to give the Knesset - Israel's legislative branch - and its government greater control over the judicial system.