Jerusalem: Hundreds of thousands of people have participated in yet another mass protest against the Israeli government’s controversial judicial reform, Israeli media report.
The protesters gathered across Israel on Saturday evening, The Jerusalem Post reported, saying that the major demonstration saw hundreds of thousands of participants.
The Times of Israel said that an estimated 130,000 – 160,000 demonstrators gathered in Tel Aviv alone on Saturday, and tens of thousands more around the country. The protesters took to Kaplan Interchange, near the government complex, The Jerusalem Post said.
At least 21 protesters were arrested on the Ayalon Highway on Saturday and roads in Tel Aviv were blocked for hours, according to The Jerusalem Post.
On Tuesday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Tuerk expressed concern that the judicial reform pushed by the Israeli government may negatively impact the rights of vulnerable groups in the country and urged the suspension of the initiative.
On Monday, the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, approved the first part of the judicial reform in the first reading. The reform will limit the authority of the Supreme Court by giving the cabinet control over the selection of new judges, as well as allowing the Knesset to override the court’s rulings with an absolute majority.
The voting in the Knesset took place amid mass protests across the country that have been held for eight consecutive weeks. The reform’s opponents argue it will undermine democracy in Israel and put the country on the verge of a social and constitutional crisis.
The current Israeli judicial system has been in place since the establishment of the state in 1948. In accordance with this system, the Supreme Court provides constitutional oversight, since Israel does not have a constitution and a constitutional court. Government decisions are largely controlled by the Supreme Court, which can overrule them if necessary.