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Israel: Thousands take to streets once more in protest over Netanyahu government

Demonstrations in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa as Israelis protest against hardline stance government has adopted, including planned reforms to country's justice system
Israelis hold placards and wave flags in Tel Aviv on 28 January 2023 during a protest against controversial government plans to give lawmakers more control of the judicial system (AFP)
Israelis protest against controversial government plans to give lawmakers more control of the judicial system, Tel Aviv, 28 January 2023 (AFP)

Tens of thousands of Israelis protested once again on Saturday against the Benjamin Netanyahu-led government's plan to weaken the judicial system.

Protests took place in several cities across the country, including Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa, as well as in New York.

Two demonstrations in Tel Aviv began at 7pm (5pm GMT), with one beginning on Kaplan Street and the other at Habima Square. Streets in and around the city were blocked off to traffic from the afternoon.

In Jerusalem, protests started in front of the president's residence beginning at 7.30pm.

Israel: Tens of thousands protest government in Tel Aviv
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Opposition leader Yair Lapid is attending the Jerusalem protest after previously cancelling his planned stop at the Haifa event.

Police estimate that 40,000 protesters were in Tel Aviv on Saturday, with 12,000 protesters in Haifa.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in the southern city of Be'er Sheva.

Meanwhile, several hundred protesters gathered in New York City to decry Netanyahu’s government’s planned judicial overhaul, according to the Times of Israel.

The crowd in Washington Square park carried Israeli flags and signs that read, “Democracy now and for all” and “Fascism is not OK”.

Speakers address the crowd in Hebrew and English and lead chants of: “From the river to the sea, all people must be free.”

The demonstrations in Israel were organised under the call of  "saving democracy", in criticism of some hardline stances the ultra-conservative government has adopted, including planned reforms to the country's justice system. 

Bribery and fraud charges

A main concern of opposition groups is a recently-proposed reform that would allow parliament to override decisions made by the Supreme Court. Analysts have warned that such a programme could potentially allow lawmakers to uphold any annulment of the corruption charges Netanyahu is being tried on. 

Netanyahu is the first sitting Israeli prime minister indicted while in office.

He denies the charges against him of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. He took office late last month following his 1 November election win, heading a coalition that includes a politician who last year admitted tax evasion and a clutch of far-right personalities, including one who once kept a portrait in his home of a man who massacred scores of Palestinian worshippers.

Earlier this month, the new national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, ordered the state's police commissioner to enforce a directive to remove Palestinian flags from public spaces a day after one was waved at a previous anti-government protest in Tel Aviv.

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