Israelis across country hold protests against judicial overhaul

Tens of thousands of Israelis on Saturday took to the streets across the country for a 28th straight week to protest a bill that would curb the powers of the Supreme Court.

The protests have drawn huge crowds in many Israeli cities, including Tel Aviv, West Jerusalem, Haifa, Beersheba, Rehovot, and Hod Hasharon, according to Israeli media reports.

More than 150,000 demonstrators took part in protests in Tel Aviv alone.

Speaking in the central Israeli city of Hod Hasharon, opposition leader Yair Lapid highlighted courts’ right to block unconstitutional laws, otherwise known as the reasonableness standard, “because we’re in an unreasonable situation,” Haaretz daily reported.

“Had you not gone out onto the streets, the disaster would have already happened; Israel would no longer be a democracy,” Haaretz quoted him as saying.

On Tuesday, the Knesset (parliament) passed a bill in its first reading by 64-56 votes to limit the Supreme Court’s powers. The bill, however, would require second and third readings in order to go into law.

Another bill was also passed that would make it harder to remove the premier on corruption charges, a situation that Prime Minister Netanyahu could face.

Israel has been in political turmoil in recent months over the planned judicial reforms, which the opposition has called a power grab in favor of executive authority.

The Israeli opposition accuses Netanyahu, who is on trial on corruption charges, of using the judicial overhaul to protect himself from the courts.

Netanyahu denies the charges and rejects any link between the judicial changes and his own case.

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