Mobilization in Israel against Benjamin Netanyahu’s government’s controversial judicial reform project gathered pace in Tel Aviv on Saturday, July 8. The demonstrators were protesting against the Israeli parliament’s examination, on Sunday July 9, of a new bill designed to increase the power of elected representatives over judges.

Tens of thousands of Israeli protesters packed Tel Aviv and other cities on Saturday to demonstrate against proposed legal reforms they say could mean more authoritarian government.

Demonstrators have kept up the pressure with weekly rallies against the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who returned to power in December at the head of a coalition with ultra-Orthodox Jewish and extreme-right allies.

Israeli media estimated turnout at Saturday’s protest in Tel Aviv — the 27th since the reform agenda was unveiled in January — at 150,000, ahead of a vote Monday in parliament on a key provision of the proposed overhaul.

A demonstrator holds a placard during a protest against the Israeli government’s judicial reform bill, in Tel Aviv, July 8, 2023. (Photo JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Police do not give the number of demonstrators.

“We must act against what the Netanyahu government is doing to our country and to the Israeli dream,” historian Yuval Noah Harari told the rally.

Police used water cannon to disperse some 100 demonstrators who blocked a main highway in the coastal city, an AFP journalist said.

Netanyahu strikes back

The government argues the judicial reform, which would give politicians more power over the courts, is necessary to ensure a better balance of power.

After unsuccessful talks with the opposition following Netanyahu’s late March announcement of a “pause” to allow for negotiations, the government is taking the offensive once again this week.

“Pink Front” demonstrators in Tel Aviv, July 8, 2023. (Photo JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Monday will see the first reading of a bill aimed at excluding the judiciary’s right to rule on the “reasonableness” of government decisions.

One of its potential effects would be on the appointment of ministers. Netanyahu in January was forced to dismiss cabinet member Aryeh Deri after intervention by the Supreme Court over a previous tax evasion conviction.

Organisers have announced a day of protest for Tuesday.

Malo Pinatel, with AFP