Tens of thousands of Israelis took to the street in several cities across the country Saturday, protesting judicial overhaul plans by Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. Critics say measures introduced by the new hard-line government would weaken the Supreme Court, limit judicial oversight and grant more power to politicians. Protesters say that would undermine democracy. The rift over the power of courts is deepening as the government is set to introduce some of the legislations in parliament Monday amid calls for partial strikes by businesses and professional groups. For the sixth week, protesters pressed on with large rallies, with the main one in the central city of Tel Aviv and several smaller gatherings in other cities.
Tens of thousands of Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv on Saturday night to protest plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government to overhaul the judicial system, measures that opponents say imperil the country's democratic fundamentals. Israeli media, citing police, said some 100,000 people were out protesting. The protest followed another demonstration last week that also drew tens of thousands in an early challenge to Netanyahu and his ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox government — the most right-wing in Israeli history. Read more: Israel troops kill 2 Palestinians during raid in occupied West Bank The government says a power imbalance has given judges and government legal advisers too much sway over lawmaking and governance. Netanyahu has pledged to press on with the changes despite the opposition. Protesters filled central streets in the seaside metropolis, raising Israeli flags and banners that read “Our Children will not Live in a Dictatorship” and “Israel, We Have A Problem.” “This is a protest to defend the country,” said opposition leader and former Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who joined the protest. “People came here today to protect their democracy.” “All generations are concerned. This is not a joke,” said Lior Student, a protester. "This is a complete redefinition of democracy.” Other protests took place in the cities of Jerusalem, Haifa and Beersheba. In addition to the protests, pressure has built up on Netanyahu’s government after the country’s attorney general asked Netanyahu to fire a key Cabinet ally following a Supreme Court ruling that disqualified him from holding a government post because of a conviction of tax offenses. While Netanyahu was expected to heed the court ruling, it only deepened the rift in the country over the judicial system and the power of the courts. Earlier this week, Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, vowed to continue with the judicial overhaul plans despite the protests. Opponents say the changes could help Netanyahu evade conviction in his corruption trial, or make the court case disappear altogether. Read more: Over 90 nations express ‘deep concern’ at Israeli punitive measure against Palestinians One protester said she thinks the judicial changes are meant to protect Netanyahu. “The aim is to save only one person and one only — this is Mr. Netanyahu, from his trial, and that’s why I’m here.” On Friday, Netanyahu's coalition was put for a new test after a disagreement between Cabinet members over the dismantling of an unauthorized settlement outpost in the West Bank. Defense Minister Yoav Galant, a member of Netanyahu's Likud party, ordered the removal of the outpost, upsetting a pro-settlement Cabinet member who had issued a directive to postpone the eviction pending further discussions.
A gunman opened fire at a bus near Jerusalem’s Old City early Sunday, wounding eight Israelis in a suspected Palestinian attack that came a week after violence flared up between Israel and militants in Gaza, police and medics said. Two of the victims were in serious condition, including a pregnant woman with abdominal injuries and a man with gunshot wounds to the head and neck, according to Israeli hospitals treating them. The shooting occurred as the bus waited in a parking lot near the Western Wall, which is considered the holiest site where Jews can pray. Israeli police said forces were dispatched to the scene to investigate. Israeli security forces also pushed into the nearby Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan pursuing the suspected attacker. The attack in Jerusalem followed a tense week between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. Read:Death toll from weekend Israel-Gaza fighting rises to 47 Last weekend, Israeli aircraft unleashed an offensive in the Gaza Strip targeting the militant group Islamic Jihad and setting off three days of fierce cross-border fighting. Islamic Jihad fired hundreds of rockets during the flare-up to avenge the airstrikes, which killed two of its commanders and other militants. Israel said the attack was meant to thwart threats from the group to respond to the arrest of one of its officials in the occupied West Bank. Forty-nine Palestinians, including 17 children and 14 militants, were killed, and several hundred were injured in the fighting, which ended with an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire. No Israeli was killed or seriously injured. The Islamic militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza, stayed on the sidelines. A day after the cease-fire halted the worst round of Gaza fighting in more than a year, Israeli troops killed three Palestinian militants and wounded dozens in a shootout that erupted during an arrest raid in the West Bank city of Nablus.