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Israelis protest against judicial reforms for 18th week

Opponents of the Israeli government's controversial judicial reform plans gather in Tel Aviv
— Tel Aviv (AFP)

Thousands of Israelis protested for an 18th straight week against the hard-right government's controversial judicial reforms, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shelving the overhaul more than a month ago.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in the central city of Rehovot, waving Israeli flags and blocking a major road junction.

Thousands gathered in Tel Aviv's Habima Square as they prepared to march across the city to Kaplan Street waving Israeli flags and chanting anti-Netanyahu slogans.

One protester held aloft a large picture of far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir with a caption dubbing him "the minister of national failure".

Israeli police did not immediately release any estimates for the number of demonstrators.

In a statement released earlier, protest organisers said the Netanyahu government was waiting to turn Israel into a "messianic and dangerous dictatorship".

They underlined what they said was the economic cost of the government's refusal to ditch the reforms altogether, instead holding talks with opposition representatives hosted by President Isaac Herzog for the past month.

"As long as the deliberations in the president's house continue, no investment is entering Israel and the Israeli economy is crashing," the organisers said.

Proponents of the judicial reforms claim they are necessary to rebalance power between the branches of government. Critics say they represent a threat to democracy.

Netanyahu announced a "pause" in legislation for the reforms on March 27 "out of a desire to prevent a rift in the nation", following weeks of mass protests and a general strike. There has been no let-up in the protests since.