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Israelis and British Jews hold rally in London against judicial overhaul

Opposition to controversial judicial plan grows as Israeli expats join protests abroad
Israeli expats and others protest in London against Prime Minister Netanyahu’s reforms that would give his government more power on who is chosen to select judges, 12 March 2023 (Social media)

Around 1,500 British Jews and Israelis marched in London on Sunday against the controversial judicial overhaul plan by the Israeli government that critics say undermines checks and balances in the country.

Standing outside the Houses of Parliament, protesters demanded that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu row back on the judiciary proposal under the banner of "defend Israeli democracy".

Some protesters held signs that read "Criminals should be in prison, not in government", referencing corruption charges made against Netanyahu that he denies, while others chanted against the prime minister and his far-right coalition partners.

British Labour MP Margaret Hodge, who joined the protest, said: "No credible democracy in the world would undermine judicial independence."

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Similar protests are due to take place in Washington DC. 

The judicial overhaul is a cornerstone of Netanyahu's administration, which is composed of ultra-Orthodox, far-right and right-wing parties. 

The proposal includes clauses that will allow parliament to override the Israeli Supreme Court by a simple majority of 61 votes out of 120 MPs.

It will also give the coalition lawmakers de facto authority to appoint judges. 

Critics of the plan say it will weaken the country's already fragile checks and balances system by curbing the Supreme Court's power to strike down laws passed by the legislature, sliding the country further into authoritarian rule and giving politicians unchecked powers. 

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The London demonstration is the second organised in the British capital since a mass protest movement against the overhaul was launched in Israel over two months ago. Last month, 300 people, mainly Israeli expats, staged a demonstration outside the Israeli embassy in London. 

The organisers of the rallies in London had rejected accusations they were run by "hard left" campaign groups such as Yachad and the New Israel Fund (NIF), a claim made in a leading British Jewish newspaper, The Jewish Chronicle

Sharon Shochat, one of the Israeli-born protest organisers, said it was a "grassroots movement of Israeli expats" and to claim otherwise was "wrong and misleading", according to the London-based Jewish News weekly. 

The Sunday rally came after tens of thousands of Israelis took part in a march on Saturday night in Tel Aviv, the biggest in Israeli history, according to local media.

Demonstrations were held in other cities and towns in the country of more than nine million people.

Some 50,000 Israelis protested in the northern city of Haifa and 10,000 in Beersheba, the biggest yet in both, according to Israeli media.

The chair of the parliament's law committee, Simcha Rotman, has scheduled daily hearings on parts of the government's judicial reforms from Sunday through until Wednesday ahead of key votes in parliament. 

These provisions have already been endorsed by lawmakers at first reading, and the government is seeking to get them passed into law by the end of March. 

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