Protests against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial reform showed no sign of abating on Saturday, despite being called off by the embattled prime minister this week, as tens of thousands took to the streets to demand that it be removed by complete.
Beset by domestic turmoil and expressions of concern and disapproval in Washington, Netanyahu halted the reform on Monday to allow negotiations on a compromise between his religious nationalist coalition and opposition parties.
“We don’t believe anything that comes out of Bibi’s (Netanyahu) mouth. We think it’s just a political stunt meant to stop the protest,» Emanuel Keller, 30, said at a protest outside the Israeli presidential residence hosting the talks.
One of the main points of contention is the push by the ruling coalition to gain more power in the appointment of judges, including to the Supreme Court.
Critics see the government’s push as a threat to the independence of the court and an attempted legal coup. Defenders say he is looking for a less elitist and interventionist bank.
Netanyahu, on trial on corruption charges he denies, says reforms are needed to balance the branches of government. His Likud party and its far-right political allies have been calling on his political base to stage counter-demonstrations.
Israeli media estimated that more than 150,000 people turned out for anti-government protests across the country on Saturday, the largest in the Tel Aviv shopping mall.
“We are going to win because this is not something we can live with. We cannot live in a state that is not democratic,” said Limor Moyal, at the Tel Aviv rally.