(Update: edits headline, lede, minor edits throughout)
Tel Aviv, Israel, Jul 3 (EFE).- Thousands of protesters on Monday gathered at Israel’s largest international airport in Tel Aviv for a huge rally against the right-wing government’s controversial plans to overhaul the justice system.
Critics say the judicial reforms, which have been tabled by prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government that includes far-right and ultra-orthodox parties, would undermine the authority and independence of Israel’s Supreme Court.
The reforms have led to some of the largest protests in Israel’s history since they were announced in January.
The crowd of demonstrators were met by a large police deployment, with local media saying 1,000 officers had been sent to quell the protest.
At least four people were arrested when police cleared protesters from in and around Terminal 3.
Police chief Kobi Shabtai had warned on Sunday that he would have “zero tolerance” if damage was caused “to the symbols of the state” or its infrastructure.
The police have sought to limit the protests by claiming “that blocking access routes around the airport” or “in areas with strategic or security installations could cause a disaster in case of emergency”.
In response, the Movement for a Quality Government in Israel urged police “to show restraint”, since “the right to protest is a pillar in a democratic country”.
Netanyahu’s coalition is trying to push through a bill that, if passed, would remove the Supreme Court’s ability to review and overturn government decisions.
After successive weeks of massive protests earlier this year, the government and the opposition held negotiations last month on watering down the reforms, but they were unable to reach an agreement.
The government has said it will press on with the reforms unilaterally.
Members of the right-wing coalition had called for Monday’s protest to be canceled amid the massive military operation being conducted in the West Bank city of Jenin, where at least eight Palestinians have been killed and over 50 were wounded.
But the anti-reform movement said the protest would continue as planned.
“In the face of a dangerous and extremist government that is rushing towards dictatorship, we have no choice but to express our resistance, even on this tense day,” the convening groups said. EFE