Conflicts & War

Somber tone to latest anti-government protests in Israel

Jerusalem, Jan 28 (EFE).- Around 40,000 people took part Saturday in Tel Aviv in the fourth protest in four weeks against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who previously governed Israel from 1996-1999 and again from 2009-2021 and now heads the most right-wing government in the country’s history.

But unlike the previous mobilizations, which took place in a festive atmosphere, Saturday’s march was a largely silent affair amid national mourning for the seven Israelis killed the night before in a shooting at a synagogue in occupied East Jerusalem.

Turnout was also only around a third of that for last week’s demonstration in Tel Aviv, which brought more than 120,000 people onto the streets.

The movement was sparked by Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s presentation of a plan to limit the authority of the Supreme Court and give politicians the biggest say in choosing judges.

At the heart of the proposal is a provision that would allow a simple majority of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, to annul Supreme Court rulings, and would eliminate the tribunal’s power to bar individuals with criminal records from holding high office.

Netanyahu’s coalition holds an absolute majority in the Knesset.

The first protest in Tel Aviv, on Jan. 7, involved around 12,000 people, while 80,000 participated on Jan. 14.

Demonstrations have also taken place in other Israeli cities such as Haifa, where 13,000 people marched on Saturday.

Seen alongside the hundreds of Israeli flags were the rainbow banners of the LGBT community, which views the new government as hostile to the liberty of sexual minorities.

While some in the Netanyahu administration have threatened to ban the annual Pride March in Tel Aviv, LGBT people perceive a more serious threat in a proposal to give professionals – including physicians – the right to refuse service based on their religious beliefs.

On Tuesday, hundreds of workers in Israel’s burgeoning high-tech sector walked off the job for several hours to join a protest in central Tel Aviv against the potential negative impacts of the proposed judicial overhaul, including deterring foreign investment or prompting a downgrade of the country’s credit rating.

The next day, more than 270 Israeli economists published an “emergency letter” warning that “the concentration of vast political power in the hands of the ruling group without strong checks and balances could cripple the country’s economy.”

Among the signatories were Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman and a former Netanyahu adviser Eugene Kandel.

Journalists, writers and figures from the worlds of culture and entertainment protested Wednesday in Tel Aviv against government threats to shut down Israel’s public broadcaster, KAN. EFE yo/dr

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