'A threat to democracy': in Israel, the population mobilized against the reform of the justice system

Audio 01:29

Opponents of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his justice reform protested in the streets, including in Tel Aviv, on the night of March 26-27, 2023. AP - Oren Ziv

Text by: RFI Follow

3 min

In Israel, determined to carry out its reform of the judiciary, Benjamin Netanyahu removes all obstacles that stand in his way. On Sunday evening, March 26, he dismissed his Minister of Defense. And in the streets, opponents came out in large numbers to denounce the attitude and policy of the Prime Minister.


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With our correspondent in Jerusalem, Sami Boukhelifah

The wrong of Yoav Gallant, now former Israeli defense minister? Having wished to suspend this controversial reform, rejected by some Israelis who consider it a threat to democracy. Following the dismissal, spontaneous demonstrations took place in several cities across the country, mainly in Tel Aviv but also in Jerusalem, in the evening and night of 26 to 27 March. A rally was held in front of the Knesset, the parliament.

Glued to each other, Tom and his friends, soaked from head to toe, braved the cold. A few hours earlier, they were doused by police water cannon outside Benjamin Netanyahu's residence, where they came to shout their anger against the reform of the judiciary.

« A new milestone is reached »

Afterwards, in the middle of the night, they converged on Parliament. "Tel Aviv may have been the epicenter of the protest movement for weeks, but it's all about Jerusalem. This is where MPs sit," said Michal, 28. With her friends, she camped at the foot of the barriers set up by the police to block access to the Knesset. "Nothing and no one will make us leave," says the young woman, determined.

Tom, on the other hand, is torn by a cocktail of feelings. Fear, hope... Everything mixes together. "The changes the government wants are drastic. They risk changing the face of the country. Unless we protest, mobilize, make noise, talk to each other, this reform will most certainly be adopted. So we are the last bastion against dictatorship," he said.

« Threat to democracy »


This reform weakens the judiciary and strengthens political power. It is a threat to democracy and the rule of law, but also to minorities," Matanael said. "We want this government to know that it will not be allowed to act at will. It will not be allowed to harm people because they are of this sex or gender, because they are Arabs or because they are Palestinians, or because they are homosexual. Thus, we settle here tonight, and we will not leave the premises until the withdrawal of this reform, "he adds.

The protest movement is entering its twelfth week. And tonight, Matanael assures him: "A new milestone has been reached." The tug-of-war will last as long as it takes. For his part, the head of the Israeli trade union center Histadrut announced Monday an immediate "general strike" at a press conference, demanding a halt to the judicial reform wanted by the government and which deeply divides the country. "The State of Israel is stopping," said Arnon Bar David, head of Israel's largest workers' union.

What does this reform of justice contain?

With this bill, the government wants to review the powers of the Supreme Court. Thus, he wants to include an "override" clause that would allow Parliament, with a simple majority vote, to overturn a Supreme Court decision.

The reform also proposes to remove lawyers from the panel that appoints Supreme Court justices. Today, it is composed of a group of judges, deputies and lawyers from the Bar, under the supervision of the Minister of Justice.

The government also wants to prevent judges from invoking the "reasonableness" of certain policy decisions. A desire motivated by the decision of January 18 of the Court to invalidate the appointment of Arié Dery as Minister of the Interior and Health because of a conviction for tax fraud. The Supreme Court had deemed this appointment not "reasonable", thus pushing the Prime Minister to remove the minister from office.

And finally, the government wants to reduce the influence of legal advisers in ministries because their recommendations are used by Supreme Court judges when they rule on the good conduct of government. The Minister of Justice therefore wants them to be clearly considered as non-binding opinions.

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  • Israel
  • Benjamin Netanyahu
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