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Protesters rail at Israeli premier's ‘judicial reforms’ for 13th straight week despite suspension

A demonstrator is sprayed by water cannon as people take part in a demonstration against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's proposed legal reforms in Tel Aviv, the occupied territories, on April 1, 2023. (Photo by Reuters)

Tens of thousands of protesters have marched across the occupied territories for the 13th consecutive week to rail at a package of controversial and highly unpopular "legal reforms" proposed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

More than 150,000 thronged the coastal city of Tel Aviv during Saturday protest, Israeli media outlets said, while smaller rallies were held in other cities.

The participants were seen carrying placards condemning Netanyahu's hard-right cabinet.

The protests have been a weekly fixture since late December, when the prime minister announced his intention to implement the changes.

The alleged reforms, he claims, are meant to redraw the power balance between the regime's executive branch and the judiciary by preventing the Supreme Court from striking down the former's decisions. They also seek to give the lawmakers a bigger say in the committee that selects the judges.

Netanyahu's opponents see his cabinet's drive to pass the legislation on the so-called reforms as a threat to the
Supreme Court's independence, describing it as a "legal coup."

They also accuse Netanyahu of trying to use the reforms to quash possible judgments against him as he is on trial in three corruption cases. 

During the Saturday protest in Tel Aviv, the regime's forces, including the mounted police, clashed with anti-Netanyahu demonstrators and, at times, deployed water cannons to disperse them.

On Monday, overwhelmed by public pressure and dissenting political voices from inside the regime and outside, the premier finally announced a "pause" in the passage of the legislation through the Knesset.

"We don’t believe anything that comes out of Bibi's mouth. We believe it’s just a political stunt aimed at stopping the protest," said one protester about the so-called suspension.

On Tuesday, representatives of parliamentary factions began talks at the residence of the regime's president, Isaac Herzog, to formulate a legislation that would be acceptable to both sides of the political spectrum.

Many political commentators and opposition figures have, however, voiced skepticism about the chances of Herzog's mediation efforts, while the ruling coalition has said it would complete the legislation in the next parliamentary session if the talks failed.

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