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Protests against Netanyahu’s bid to overhaul Israel’s judiciary continue

Israelis packed city
streets on Saturday in nationwide demonstrations now in their
10th week against plans by the hard-right government to curb the
Supreme Court’s powers, which critics see as a threat to
judicial independence.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who says his aim is to
balance out branches of government, wields a parliamentary
majority along with his religious-nationalist coalition allies.

As the reforms head toward ratification, the protests have
escalated, while the currency, shekel, has slipped.

Some military reservists have
threatened not to heed call-up orders. President Isaac Herzog
has appealed for the overhaul to be postponed and dialogue held.

“It’s not a judicial reform. It’s a revolution that (is)
making Israel go to full dictatorship and I want Israel to stay
a democracy for my kids,” said Tamir Guytsabri, 58, among tens
of thousands of demonstrators who gathered in central Tel Aviv.

The protests were mostly peaceful, though Reuters news agency witnessed
some injuries and arrests among protesters when police moved in
against attempts to block traffic.

The national police chief, Inspector-General Yaacov Shabtai,
made a rare televised announcement in which he backed off from
plans to reassign the head of Tel Aviv’s police, which some
feared presaged plans to crack down harder on protests.

The now-deferred reassignment was part of a scheduled
rotation, Shabtai said, adding that police would continue
safeguarding demonstrations kept within legal boundaries and
“will not yield to any political pressure on the matter”.

Netanyahu, who returned to office for a sixth term in late
December, says the demonstrations are aimed at toppling him. He
is on trial in three corruption cases and denies all wrongdoing.

“I am here to protest against the reform in the law, and to
protest our prime minister, who we call ‘Crime Minister’,” said
demonstrator Miri Lahat, 63.

READ MORE: Israel army chief warns of more discontent in force over judicial reforms”

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