Thousands march in Tel Aviv despite PM halting judicial overhaul process

With coalition and opposition set to meet in Jerusalem for compromise talks, protesters call for bills to be completely thrown out rather than suspended

Israelis protest against the government's planned judicial overhaul, in Tel Aviv on March 28, 2023. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Israelis protest against the government's planned judicial overhaul, in Tel Aviv on March 28, 2023. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Around 3,000 demonstrators marched against the government’s judicial overhaul plan in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreeing to pause the legislative process the previous day.

The protest, significantly smaller than those witnessed in the city over the past 12 weeks, was held due to demonstrators’ fears that Netanyahu’s suspension of the legislative process was a ruse designed to stifle demonstrations before eventually resuming the legislative blitz in a few weeks’ time, protest organizers said.

They also said the protest was a response to Netanyahu’s agreement with National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir to advance plans for the formation of a “national guard” force under the far-right minister’s direct control.

The march departed from the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv at 4 p.m., before making its way to Independence Hall on Rothschild Boulevard.

Another group, Paratroopers for Democracy, also staged a demonstration on Tuesday, with hundreds gathering at Hasharon Junction near the coastal city of Netanya.

Other leading protest groups earlier indicated that while they were skeptical of the government’s intentions, they would nonetheless suspend activities while coalition and opposition leaders attempt to hash out a compromise.

The Brothers in Arms group, leaders of the military reservist protests, said in a statement Tuesday: “According to [the prime minister], this halt was made with the intention of giving time for negotiations. We — like the majority of the people — do not believe words, do not believe that there is a real intention to reach a broad agreement. We only believe in actions.”

Hundreds of air force officers and other military reservists joined the protests in recent weeks against the hardline coalition’s effort to radically restrict the High Court of Justice’s power, declaring that they wouldn’t report for duty if the overhaul passes, as it would be an effective end to Israel’s democratic regime.

“At the same time, as principled reserve volunteers who led the country every time the country called us, and after deep consideration and [out a sense of] national responsibility for the unity of the people… we decided to give the negotiation process a chance,” the group said.

But, the protesters added, “We are ready and organized to renew the protest in a short time. Brothers in Arms will resume active protest actions immediately with full force if it turns out that the time allowed for talks is being cynically used to further damage democracy.”

Another leading group in the protest movement said earlier that despite Netanyahu pausing the judicial makeover legislation, they would continue to demonstrate on Saturday nights in Tel Aviv.

The Movement for Quality Government in Israel and the leaders of the high-tech sector protest movement both said they would continue to demonstrate until the government completely abandoned its judicial overhaul plans.

Times of Israel staff and Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.

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