Israeli protests over judicial overhaul continue despite Netanyahu's pause
Protests against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's judicial overhaul showed no sign of abating on Saturday, despite its suspension by the embattled premier this week, as tens of thousands took to the streets for a 13th straight week to demand it be scrapped entirely.
Beset by the domestic upheaval and expressions of concern and disapproval in Washington, Netanyahu on Monday paused the overhaul to allow negotiations on a compromise between his religious-nationalist coalition and opposition parties.
Earlier, Netanyahu had announced that he was firing Defence Minister Yoav Gallant for calling for just such a pause. The sacking had triggered a crippling general strike.
By Tuesday, representatives of most of parliament's parties had begun talks at the residence of President Isaac Herzog to try to formulate legislation that would be acceptable to both sides of the political spectrum.
Many political commentators and opposition figures have voiced scepticism about the chances of Herzog's mediation efforts, with the coalition saying it would complete legislation in the next parliamentary session if talks failed
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"We don’t believe anything that comes out of Bibi's [Netanyahu's] mouth. We believe it’s just a political stunt aimed at stopping the protest," said Emanuel Keller, 30, at a protest outside the Israeli presidential residence hosting the talks.
One of the main points of contention is the ruling coalition's push for more power in appointing judges, including to the Supreme Court.
'We don’t believe anything that comes out of Bibi's mouth. We believe it’s just a political stunt'
- Emanuel Keller, protester
Critics see the government's drive as a threat to the court's independence and an attempt at a legal coup. Proponents say it is seeking a less elitist, interventionist bench.
Netanyahu, on trial on corruption charges, which he denies, says reforms are needed to balance the branches of government. His Likud party and political allies in the far-right have been calling on their political base to stage counter demonstrations.
Israeli media estimated more than 150,000 people attended anti-government protests nationwide on Saturday, the largest in the commercial hub, Tel Aviv.
"We're going to win because this is not something that we can live with. We cannot live in a state that is not democratic," said Limor Moyal, at the Tel Aviv demonstration.
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