Between outbreaks of violence, the streets of Israel They were filled again this Saturday for the eleventh consecutive week by massive protest marches against the government of Benjamin Netanyahu and the judicial reform that it promotes, despite the deep social polarization that it has caused.
With Tel Aviv as the epicenter, the demonstrations brought together some 260,000 people in more than a hundred points in the country, as has become the custom since the reform was announced in January.
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However, the protests this Saturday were marked by increased violence by government supporters.
The Police, who reported about twenty detainees, tried to contain the attacks by a group of masked activists from right-wing extremist groups.
One of them fired fireworks at the march in the city of Kiryat Ono, in central Israel, protesters denounced. Another physically assaulted a protester while he was driving his car, causing minor injuries, according to authorities.
In addition, supporters of Netanyahu’s Likud party hurled eggs at protesters in the city of Or Akiva, and a man rammed his motorcycle into a march in the Givatayim neighborhood of Tel Aviv.
No serious injuries have been reported so far, but the head of the opposition, former Prime Minister Yahir Lapid, condemned the violence after attending the protests.
“Extreme increase in the level of violence against protesters. The Israeli government’s incitement against the protest is what provoked it. Violent thugs wreaked havoc across the country tonight,” Lapid denounced on Twitter, asking Netanyahu to “strongly condemn” the events.
In the midst of the largest protest movement in Israel in recent years, whose marches have brought together half a million people in a single day, Netanyahu has called the protesters “anarchists” and his son compared them to the paramilitary wing. of the Nazi Party.
“What did we have in Germany in the 1930s? Hired thugs who sowed political terror in the streets. No assassination but (…) they created chaos and their party rose up undemocratically,” Yair Netanyahu told Israeli radio on Friday.
Fearing that the reform would undermine democracy and the independence of the judiciary in Israel, the demonstrators brandished flags and torches, while the authorities tried to prevent the blockade of roads with metal fences and the deployment of mounted police and water tanks.
“We will never give up!” read a giant banner stretched out over the heads of the protesters.
Women dressed in red robes marched in defense of gender equality, while members of the LGTBQ+ collective clamored for their rights waving pink-hued Israeli flags.
“This is home for all of us,” read banners carried by Bedouin Israelis in the town of Hura.
Netanyahu’s reform, which abolishes the Supreme Court’s ability to review and annul unconstitutional laws and gives the executive full control over the appointment of judges, is on its way through Parliament and could be approved by the end of March.
The Prime Minister insists on the relevance of his reform despite the strong rejection that it has aroused in very diverse sectors of society -from intellectuals, scientists and high-tech businessmen, to soldiers, bankers and students- and even despite the questioning of the international community.
By this Sunday, hundreds of elite Israeli Army reservists are expected to go on strike in protest of the reform.
This week, Netanyahu scrapped an alternative, less radical reform proposed by President Isaac Herzog in an attempt to de-escalate the country’s deep polarization and avoid a “civil war.”
Opposition leaders have backed Herzog’s plan, and even some voices on the right are beginning to give him credit.
The Minister of Culture and Sports, Miki Zohar, stated that the Government should show more willingness to compromise on judicial reform.
“If we continue to keep our heads in the sand and the gap [social] deepens, it will be the State of Israel that suffers,” he said, according to Channel 12.
For his part, Yuli Edelstein, a Likud legislator, called for the judicial reform to be halted in order to negotiate with his detractors.
“We could have done this a long time ago for any number of reasons. Not only to give dialogue a chance, but also not to fuel the protests”, he acknowledged.
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