Protests in Israel resume after president’s failure to mediate
Jerusalem, Mar 16 (EFE).- Hundreds of Israelis on Thursday hit the streets again to decry controversial judicial reforms a day after president Isaac Herzog proposed alternative changes that were rejected by the far-right government.
The protests, which the organizers dubbed a “day of resistance to the dictatorship,” began early on the day in more than 100 locations across the country, with demonstrators blocking roads and painting a thick red line on the street leading to the Supreme Court in Jerusalem.
Five artists were arrested for drawing the red line, which was meant to symbolize the direct link between an independent judiciary and freedom of expression, according to activists.
Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned overhaul of the justice system has sparked the largest protests in Israel’s history for 11 consecutive weeks. On Saturday, a record 500,000 Israelis rallied across the country.
If approved, the reforms would allow a simple parliamentary majority to overturn Supreme Court rulings, change the composition of the judge selection committee and restrict the Supreme Court from reviewing and changing basic laws.
Herzog, who usually takes a back seat in political debates, had to change his policy and propose on Wednesday a compromise plan that he claimed he set up after talking with 1,000 people from various sectors, in an attempt to unite the increasingly polarized Israeli society. However, Netanyahu nixed it before he flew to Berlin.
“Those who think that a civil war is something that we cannot reach, they have no idea,” Herzog warned in a televised speech.
“In my life, in the worst nightmares, I never thought I would hear such words, even if it is from a very small minority of people. I heard startling rhetoric. I heard real, deep hatred. I heard people — from all the parties that the idea of blood in the streets no longer shocks them,” he added.
The organizers of the protests thanked Herzog for his efforts and accused the government of trying to turn the country into a “dictatorship.”
Rallies also took place in major cities such as Haifa and Rehovot, where sand bags were placed around a court to protect it from attacks. In rural areas around Beit Yanai town, tractors blocked traffic for hours.
Protesters are planning to meet later in the center of Tel Aviv and are expected to block the Ayalon highway like in previous demonstrations.
In Jerusalem, demonstrators will gather in the next few hours outside the prime minister’s office. EFE