Tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in three Israeli cities to oppose plans by Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to overhaul the country’s legal system and weaken the Supreme Court.

According to media reports citing police, the crowd in Tel Aviv’s Habiba Square reached at least 80,000 people, with many carrying Israeli flags and signs reading “criminal regime”, “end democracy” and Other slogans were listed.

“They are trying to destroy the checks and balances of Israeli democracy,” protester Asaf Steinberg said. “And we will fight to the last minute to save Israeli democracy.”

A small number of people were reportedly involved in clashes with police when they tried to block a highway in Tel Aviv, but otherwise there was no major unrest.

There were also smaller protests in Jerusalem and Haifa on Saturday evening.

Israeli media quoted police as saying that officers had been instructed to be “extremely sensitive” and allow the protests to proceed peacefully. But they vowed to respond strongly to any vandalism or violent behaviour.

Prime Minister Netanyahu, who is on trial on corruption charges, has made overhauling the country’s legal system central to his agenda.

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In power for just over two weeks, his new government, made up of ultra-Orthodox and far-right nationalist parties, empowered parliament to overturn court decisions by a simple majority vote of the Supreme Court. Proposals to weaken the

It also wants to give Parliament control over the appointment of judges and curtail the independence of legal advisers.

Protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new right-wing coalition and his proposed judicial reforms to reduce the powers of the Supreme Court in Tel Aviv.
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Protest against the new Israeli government in Tel Aviv January 14, 2023 Tel Aviv, Israel

Mr. Netanyahu’s justice minister says the unelected judges have too much power, but opponents of the plan say the proposed changes would strip the judiciary of its independence and undermine Israeli democracy.

Israel’s opposition leader, the former attorney general and the president of Israel’s Supreme Court have all spoken out against the plan.

The legal changes could help Mr. Netanyahu avoid a conviction or miss his trial altogether. Since his indictment in 2019, Mr Netanyahu has said the justice system is biased against him.

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Asked about the protests, Miki Zohar, a senior politician in Mr Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party, said: “There were tens of thousands of people at tonight’s protests. Two and a half months ago, millions turned out in the elections here. .

“We promised the people change, we promised governance, we promised reform – and we will deliver.”

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