Mass protests against Israeli government plans to change justice system enter 21st week

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Tens of thousands of Israelis gathered Saturday for the ongoing weekly protests against their government’s plans to overhaul the justice system.

The mass protests have entered their 21st week. This week’s rallies come days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition of ultra-Orthodox and ultra-nationalist parties passed a new two-year budget.

The main protest took place in Tel Aviv, drawing thousands of flag-waving demonstrators.

The adoption of the new budget could bring some stability to the most radical Israeli government of all time. However, it also appeared to fuel protesters’ views that Netanyahu is appealing to his religious allies rather than addressing broader economic issues in society at large.

“If Israel takes too much power, (our country) will basically become like Poland or Hungary, and we don’t want that,” said protester Aylon Argaman.

The organizers of popular demonstrations present them as a movement to save democracy. They say the government’s plans to weaken the Supreme Court would destroy the country’s system of checks and balances and undermine Israeli democracy.

Proponents of judicial overhaul say it is necessary to rein in an overzealous Supreme Court.

Netanyahu delayed proposed changes in March, but protest organizers say they want to keep protests going until plans are scrapped.

“The government may think we are getting tired after 21 weeks, but even if we are tired, democracy is still more important to us,” said Omer Kidron, another protester.

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