Israel sees one of its biggest protests ever – BBC News

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Around 200,000 people are believed to have taken to the streets in Tel Aviv.

Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have taken part in what some are calling the biggest protest in the country’s history.

Protests against the government’s plans to overhaul the judicial system have been going on for 10 weeks.

Protesters turned out in record numbers in cities such as Haifa, while around 200,000 people are believed to have taken to the streets in Tel Aviv.

Critics say the reforms will undermine democracy.

But Benjamin Netanyahu’s government says the planned changes are better for voters.

Organizers said 500,000 pro-democracy protesters took to the streets across the country on Saturday in what the Israeli Haaretz newspaper called “the largest demonstration in the country’s history”.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid told a crowd in the southern city of Beer Sheva that the country was facing “the biggest crisis in its history”.

He said, “The wave of terrorism is hitting us, our economy is crumbling, money is leaving the country. Iran has just signed a new deal with Saudi Arabia yesterday. But this government needs only one thing. All he cares about is crushing Israel’s democracy.”

Tamir Guetsbree, a protester in Tel Aviv, told Reuters: “This is not judicial reform. This is a revolution that [is] Letting Israel go into total dictatorship and I want Israel to remain a democracy for my children.”

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The issue has sparked deep divisions in Israeli society.

Protests against judicial reforms have brought hundreds of thousands of people to the streets.

The reforms aim to give the elected government decisive influence over the selection of judges and limit the Supreme Court’s ability to rule against the executive or overrule legislation.

The issue has caused deep divisions in Israeli society and has notably seen reservists – the backbone of Israel’s military – threatening to refuse to serve as a way of showing their protest.

On Monday, in an unprecedented move, dozens of reserve fighter pilots in an elite squadron of the Israeli Air Force said they would not report for training. He later changed course and agreed to engage and negotiate with his commanders.

On Thursday, protesters blocked roads and tried to prevent Mr Netanyahu from leaving the country. He later flew to Rome.

The government is adamant in facing the furore, claiming the protests are being fueled by political opponents.

Critics say the planned reforms, which are already making their way through parliament, will politicize the judiciary and could lead to an authoritarian government.

Mr Netanyahu says the reforms are designed to stop the courts from overstepping their powers and they were voted on by the Israeli public in the last election.

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WATCH: Protesters flood the streets of Tel Aviv this week

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