Israeli police fired water cannons at demonstrators blocking a highway in Tel Aviv on Thursday, according to AFP journalists. Demonstrators across the country rallied against the government’s judicial reform program.
According to Israeli media estimates of the crowd, tens of thousands of Israelis protested in Tel Aviv and other cities, denouncing what they see as a threat to the country’s democracy.
Demonstrator Nadav Golander warned of a “dictatorship” if the government pursued a controversial program to give politicians more power in court.
“People understand…that they don’t stop,” said Golander, 37.
“Of all the ‘days of paralysis’… this is the most important. There are a lot of people,” he added, referring to the name used by the organizers.
Many demonstrators carried Israeli flags and some clashed with police. Police report that at least 10 people have been arrested in Tel Aviv for violating public order.
Lihi Duga, a 22-year-old student, said she feared the police response.
“I’m petite and the police are violent,” she told AFP.
Thousands of people gathered outside the residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, according to Israeli media.
Police did not provide an estimate of the number of protesters.
Rallies were also held in the northern city of Haifa and in the southern city of Beersheba.
The reform was announced by Justice Minister Yariv Levin in January, days after the government took office. Since then, they have held regular protests across Israel.
Netanyahu and his far-right, ultra-Orthodox Jewish allies say the proposed changes are necessary to weaken the powers of the Supreme Court, which they argue is politicized.
Critics at home fear the plan threatens the country’s democracy, but Israel’s allies abroad have also expressed concerns about the overhaul.
The White House said in a phone call with Netanyahu on Sunday that US President Joe Biden expressed support for “compromise” and stressed the importance of “true checks and balances.”