Thousands of Israelis took to the streets on Saturday, March 25 in Tel Aviv, to express their opposition to the judicial reform carried out by the government. Protests have followed one another every week since the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, one of the most right-wing in Israel's history, presented in January a reform project that divides the country.

Causing concern in Israel but also abroad, the reform aims to increase the power of elected officials over that of magistrates. According to its critics, it jeopardizes the democratic character of the State of Israel.

"We are here today to demonstrate and add our voice to the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Israelis who support the values on which this country was founded," such as "democracy" and "tolerance," Daniel Nisman, 36, who works in the tech sector, told AFP.

Early Saturday evening, thousands of people were gathered in Tel Aviv, according to an AFP journalist.

"More and more Israelis are waking up," said Josh Drill, a spokesman for one of the protest movements, known as "umbrellas." "We are not going to live in a dictatorship," the 26-year-old told AFP.

U.S. "concerns"

Israel's key allies, including Washington, have questioned plans to give more power to politicians and reduce the role of the Supreme Court.

US President Joe Biden has expressed "concerns" about these judicial reforms, White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday.

On Friday in London, where he met with his British counterpart Rishi Sunak, Benjamin Netanyahu was also greeted by hundreds of protesters.

Rishi Sunak stressed at the meeting "the importance of respecting the democratic values that underpin the relationship (between the two countries), including in the judicial reform project in Israel," according to a spokesman in Downing Street.

Benjamin Netanyahu and his far-right and ultra-Orthodox allies believe this reform project is necessary to restore a balanced balance of power between elected officials and the Supreme Court, which they consider politicized.

>> Read: In Israel, an influential think tank behind controversial judicial reform

Israeli lawmakers are expected to vote next week on one of the central elements of the reform, at the heart of the concerns of its critics, providing for a change in the process of appointing judges.

Benjamin Netanyahu, who had so far remained on the sidelines on this issue, pledged Thursday night in a speech to "end the division among the people", while stressing his determination to advance reform.

The next day, he was called to order by the judiciary which deemed "illegal" his public intervention, given his ongoing trials for corruption.

The text of the draft was amended in committee to soften the content in order to reach a wider vote, but without the support of the opposition which continues to demand "a pause" in the legislative work on the reform before any negotiation with the majority.

With AFP

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