Organizers said 500,000 people attended Saturday’s protests, making them some of the ‘largest in Israel’s history’.
Hundreds of thousands of people rallied in cities across Israel for the 10th week in a row, protesting against plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government to curb the power of the Supreme Court.
Organizers said a record 500,000 people attended Saturday’s rallies, making them some of the “largest in Israel’s history”.
Israeli media put the turnout at 250,000 to 300,000 people.
The demonstrations come as Netanyahu’s government prepares to press ahead with its legislative agenda next week, avoiding calls for a halt to allow negotiations on compartmentalization of judicial reforms.
“I’m demonstrating because the measures the new government wants to take represent a real and immediate threat to Israeli democracy,” one protester, tech entrepreneur Ran Shahor, told AFP news agency in the coastal city of Tel Aviv.
“This is not a judicial reform. This is a revolution [is] is making Israel go into full dictatorship and I want Israel to remain a democracy for my children,” Tamir Guytsabri, 58, told Reuters news agency.
About 200,000 Israelis rallied in Tel Aviv, while 50,000 people protested in the northern city of Haifa and 10,000 in Beersheba – the largest of both – according to Israeli media.
The rallies broke up without major incident, although police arrested three protesters blocking traffic on Tel Aviv’s ring road.
The turmoil over the legal changes has plunged Israel into one of its worst domestic crises. Beyond the protests, which have brought tens of thousands of Israelis to the streets and recently turned violent, opposition grew stronger from across societywith business leaders and legal officials speaking out against what they say will be harmful effects of the plan.
The legislation would give the government more weight in the committee that selects judges and would deny the Supreme Court the right to overturn any amendments to the so-called Basic Laws, Israel’s quasi-constitution.
These provisions have already been endorsed by the legislators in the first reading.
Another element of the reforms would give the 120-member parliament the power to overrule Supreme Court decisions with a simple majority of 61 votes.
Critics say changes will happen destroy the country’s system of checks and balances and concentrate power in the hands of the prime minister and his allies.
Some also say that Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, is driven by personal grievances and that he will find an escape route from the charges through an overhaul.
Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing and said the legal changes had nothing to do with his trial.
Israeli President Issac Herzog – who, in his more ceremonial role, tried to negotiate – on Thursday called on the governing coalition to stop the law, calling it “a threat to the foundations of democracy”. .
The chairman of the parliament’s law committee, Simcha Rotman, however, scheduled daily hearings on parts of the government’s reforms from Sunday to Wednesday before the votes.
Justice Minister Yariv Levin said the coalition plans to pass key elements of the reforms before parliament recesses on April 2.
Judicial overhaul is a cornerstone of Netanyahu’s administrationan alliance with ultra-Orthodox Jewish and extreme-right parties that took office in late December.