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Israelis protest now-frozen judicial reform for 13th week

Israelis march in Tel Aviv, keeping up their protests for a 13th straight week even after the hard-right government paused its controversial judicial reforms
— Tel Aviv (AFP)

Thousands of Israelis protested in Tel Aviv Saturday for a 13th straight week against a controversial judicial overhaul now frozen by the government while talks are held with party representatives.

Carrying Israeli flags, people marched through the centre of Israel's commercial hub, chanting "democracy" and carrying placards condemning the hard-right government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Smaller rallies were taking place in other cities.

Demonstrations erupted in January after the coalition announced its reform package, which the government says is necessary to rebalance powers between lawmakers and the judiciary.

The proposed reforms would curtail the authority of the Supreme Court and give politicians greater powers over the selection of judges, which opponents say could imperil Israeli democracy.

On Monday, Netanyahu announced a "pause" in the passage of the necessary legislation through parliament, in the face of a crippling general strike triggered by his announcement that he was firing Defence Minister Yoav Gallant for calling for just such a pause.

By Tuesday, representatives of most of parliament's parties had begun talks at the residence of President Isaac Herzog to try to formulate legislation that would be acceptable to both sides of the political spectrum.

There were no immediate indication as to the size of Saturday's demonstrations compared to previous weeks.

Many political commentators and opposition figures have voiced scepticism about the chances of Herzog's mediation efforts, with the coalition saying it would complete legislation in the next parliamentary session if talks failed.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu has not presented Gallant with the dismissal letter required by law, so the defence minister has been going about his duties as usual.