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Amid existential crisis facing regime, more Israelis look for escape route: Report

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The file photo shows passengers at the departure hall in Israel’s Ben Gurion airport.

A significant number of people are looking for an escape route from the occupied territories amid the deepening political and existential crisis facing the Israeli regime led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to Israeli media.

Hebrew-language newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth in a revealing report on Tuesday said the number of Israelis seeking asylum abroad has significantly increased following the mass protest rallies across the occupied territories against Netanyahu's controversial plan to hijack the judiciary.

“The number of applicants for citizenship of other countries has increased significantly,” the Israeli daily newspaper said.

“Following the recent events and Israelis' serious concern about the future of Israel, we have seen a significant increase in applicants for citizenship of various countries around the world.”

Citing some active Israeli lawyers in the immigration field, the report said, “We are witnessing the intensification of this phenomenon, in such a way that the number of these people has increased not by tens but by hundreds compared to the past, and every lawyer receives five to six requests per day.”

Yedioth Ahronoth also underlined that individuals requesting the capital transfer or obtaining citizenship are not only among leftists and Netanyahu’s opponents but also supporters of judicial changes can be seen among them.

In another report, the Israeli paper warned that foreign visitors and tourists were also canceling their trips to the occupied territories due to the massive wave of anti-judicial overhaul demonstrations in the past two months.

"We have started receiving cancellation notices from abroad," said Israel’s tourism union chief Yossi Fatael, who refused to specify the extent of the cancellations. "The ceaseless images broadcast from Israel are seeping into the world's consciousness."

Citing new data released Sunday by the Israel Hotel Association, Yedioth Ahronoth said tourist overnight stays in February totaled approximately 727,000, a 17% decrease compared to February 2019 – the last full year before the COVID-19 outbreak.

Tourist overnight in January stays totaled approximately 589,000, a 26% decrease compared to January 2019.

"In recent days, we have been receiving worried calls from our colleagues around the world, a phenomenon we have not known for several years,” Fatael added. “If we don't manage to get out of the headlines soon, the phenomenon of cancellations that is currently on the fringes will spread.”

Mass protests have gripped the apartheid regime since Netanyahu announced his proposed judicial reforms in January.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators have faced off against police in the streets on a weekly basis, with the latest protests attended by hundreds of thousands in Tel Aviv on Saturday and Sunday.

The Israeli premier had claimed that the so-called reform plan would stop the courts from over-reaching their powers, but critics said they would help him bypass some rules as he faces an ongoing trial for corruption.

Netanyahu announced on Monday evening that he was temporarily freezing the bill that would alter the makeup of Israel’s judicial system. He said he was determined to pass the judicial reform plan.

Israeli protesters, however, vowed that they would press ahead with demonstrations across the occupied territories "as long as the legislation continues and is not shelved."

The struggle over the plans illustrates the deep divide in Israeli society between supporters of the incumbent right-wing administration, who says the judicial changes are necessary, and the growing number of people opposed to Netanyahu’s plan, who argue that the moves will weaken the independence of the judiciary.

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