Protesters keep pressure on Israel PM over reform plan

Protesters thronged Tel Aviv to demonstrate against the government's judicial overhaul proposals.

Israelis protested again on Saturday against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposed judicial reform plans, days after he said he had dropped a key provision in the controversial project.

The demonstrators have kept up the pressure with weekly rallies against Netanyahu, who returned to power last December at the head of a coalition with ultra-Orthodox Jewish and extreme-right parties.

As they have done every Saturday for months, protesters thronged the heart of Israel’s commercial capital Tel Aviv to demonstrate against the government’s judicial overhaul proposals.

Opponents of the plan believe it could open the way to more authoritarian government.

In March, as the mass protests were backed by sweeping industrial action, Netanyahu announced a “pause” to allow for talks on the reforms, which were moving through parliament and split the nation.

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara had accused him of acting “illegally” in championing the reforms, citing potential conflict of interests due to his long-running corruption trial in which he is accused of fraud and breach of trust. The prime minister denies any wrongdoing.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published on Thursday, Netanyahu said he intends to press ahead with the reforms, but without a clause that aimed to curb the supreme court’s powers and give politicians a greater say in the selection of judges.

“I already changed a few things right after the original proposal was put forward,” Netanyahu told the newspaper.

“I said that the idea of an override clause where the parliament, the Knesset, can override the decisions of the supreme court with a simple majority, I said, I threw that out.”

Although there were no figures immediately available for the number of people who demonstrated in Tel Aviv on Saturday, the protests regularly bring together tens of thousands of people.

On June 14, the two main opposition leaders, Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz, said they were pulling out of negotiations on the reform plan.

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