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Israel judicial crisis: Protesters rally against judicial reforms for 18th week

Mass protests show no sign of let-up despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suspending controversial judicial overhaul more than a month ago
Demonstrators gather to protest against the Israeli government's judicial overhaul bill, in Tel Aviv on 6 May 2023 (AFP)
Demonstrators gather to protest against the Israeli government's judicial overhaul bill, in Tel Aviv on 6 May 2023 (AFP)

Thousands of Israelis protested for an 18th straight week against the hard-right government's controversial judicial reforms, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shelving the overhaul more than a month ago.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in the central city of Rehovot, waving Israeli flags and blocking a major road junction, according to AFP.

Thousands gathered in Tel Aviv's Habima Square as they prepared to march across the city to Kaplan Street waving Israeli flags and chanting anti-Netanyahu slogans.

One protester held aloft a large picture of far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir with a caption dubbing him "the minister of national failure".

Israeli police did not immediately release any estimates for the number of demonstrators.

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In a statement released earlier, protest organisers said the Netanyahu government was waiting to turn Israel into a "messianic and dangerous dictatorship".

They underlined what they said was the economic cost of the government's refusal to ditch the reforms altogether, instead holding talks with opposition representatives hosted by President Isaac Herzog for the past month.

"As long as the deliberations in the president's house continue, no investment is entering Israel and the Israeli economy is crashing," the organisers said.

Proponents of the judicial reforms claim they are necessary to rebalance power between the branches of government. Critics say they represent a threat to democracy.

Netanyahu announced a "pause" in legislation for the reforms on 27 March, following weeks of mass protests and a general strike.

"Out of a sense of national responsibility, out of a will to prevent a rupture among our people, I have decided to pause the second and third readings of the bill,” he told the country’s legislature.

There has been no let-up in the protests since.

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