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Israelis continue judicial reform protests after budget approved

Israeli media put the number of participants in the Tel Aviv demonstration at 'tens of thousands'
— Tel Aviv (AFP)

Israelis took to the streets of Tel Aviv Saturday night for the 21st straight week against the hard-right government's controversial judicial reform plans, days after parliament approved the state budget.

Protesters gathered in other major cities, Haifa and Beersheba, as well as at dozens of junctions and locales throughout the country, to decry what they perceive as a threat to Israel's democracy.

The government's reform proposals would curtail the authority of the Supreme Court and give politicians greater powers over the selection of judges.

In March, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had announced a "pause" to allow for talks on the reforms, which were moving through parliament and split the nation.

Ongoing dialogue produced no major breakthrough, and on Wednesday parliament approved the state budget, with Netanyahu vowing to "continue our efforts to reach understandings as broad as possible on the legal reform."

Israeli media put the number of participants in the Tel Aviv demonstration at "tens of thousands," as has occurred on previous occasions.

Demonstrators perceive the judicial reforms as a threat to Israel's democracy

Among the crowd was Israel Alva, a technology entrepreneur from Karmei Yosef.

To him, the budget was "outrageous" as "it gives certain sectors perks and doesn't take the general population into consideration."

He said it was important to demonstrate against the legal overhaul since "Our DNA is democratic and liberal. We want a life of freedom and not to be told what to do."

Yael Ben Shalom, an MA student at Tel Aviv University, said she was demonstrating "because people are trying to take control over our regime and turn it into something bad" and "ruin the country’s future."

Netanyahu's government, a coalition between his Likud party and extreme-right and ultra-Orthodox Jewish allies, argues the changes are needed to rebalance powers between lawmakers and the judiciary.

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