Israelis rally in three cities against Netanyahu legal reforms

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Tens of thousands of Israelis demon-strated in three major cities on Saturday against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial reform plans, with organisers accusing him of undermining democratic rule weeks after his reelection.

Bestriding a religious-nationalist coalition with a solid parliamentary majority, Netanyahu, now in his sixth term, wants to rein in the Supreme Court in what he has described as a restoration of the balance of the three branches of government.

Critics say the proposed reforms would cripple judi-cial independence, foster corruption, set back mi-nority rights and deprive Israel’s courts system of credibility that helps fend off war-crimes allegations abroad. Among those opposed are the Supreme Court chief justice and the country’s attorney-general.

After President Isaac Herzog appealed to polarised politicians to “lower the temperatures” of the debates, organisers of the demonstrations – held under chilly winter rain — sought to strike a note of national unity.

“Take an Israeli flag in one hand, an umbrella in the other, and come out to protect democracy and law in the State of Israel,” said centrist ex-defence minister Benny Gantz, who attended the Tel Aviv rally but, like other opposition figures, was not due to address it.

“We Are Preserving Our Shared Home,” read one demonstrator’s placard. Netanyahu was guilty of a “legal putsch”, said another.

Israeli media put the number in attendance at some 80,000, with thousands more at protests in Jerusalem and Haifa.—AFP