On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of people took part in rallies across Israel for the 12th consecutive week of mass demonstrations against the government’s judicial overhaul plans.
This was ahead of the expected approval of a core law that is part of the judicial shakeup in the next week.
The Defense Minister
While the protests were ongoing, Yoav Gallant, the Defense Minister, gave a speech calling for the coalition to pause the legislative push until next month, after Passover and a number of holidays.
He said that there should be talks held on the judicial overhaul plans, but also stated that he was in favor of reforming the judiciary and also called for the mass protests to end.
According to sources from the coalition, they do not have any intention of stopping the legislative process and it would continue as planned.
The main protest took place in Tel Aviv, which saw almost 200,000 people turn up on the Kaplan Street of the coastal city.
Numerous other regions all across the country also saw tens of thousands of people turn up, including Haifa, Jerusalem and Beersheba.
According to protest organizers, the total number of people who participated in nationwide protests stood at 630,000, but this figure could not be independently verified.
Yuval Noah Harari, a historian, spoke at the rally in Tel Aviv and said that if there is a constitutional crisis, military forces and civil servants have to listen to courts rather than the government.
Harari addressed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and said that he was responsible for whatever was happening and he was not an angel or emissary.
He likened the premier to Pharaoh and said that people still remembered him and they would do the same with Benjamin Netanyahu.
He added that the prime minister would be remembered as someone who had tried to enslave Israelis and failed.
At the same rally, a world-renowned physicist, Shikma Bressler, also spoke and said that the government’s plan of controlling judicial appointments is the first step to dictatorship.
Bressler had been arrested earlier this week while demonstrating against the government. While the speakers were addressing the rally, news of the Defense Minister’s address had come through.
It was announced by Bressler and the crowd cheered and roared, but Bressler said that any celebration was premature.
She said that they were not confused or sleeping and they wanted the whole legislative package to be scrapped.
Protestor numbers continued to swell and traffic was blocked for several hours when they ran onto the Ayalon Highway.
Water cannons were used for dispersing the demonstrators and the police detained 32 of them while trying to clear the road.
The police said that some protestors had also been detained on Route 65 due to disorderly conduct, which included hurling flares.
According to a legal aid group, the demonstration at Karkur Junction saw nine people get arrested. There was also a face-off between legislation supporters and anti-overhaul protestors in Or Akiva.
Three people were arrested after the heated encounter for alleged violence.