Thousands of Israelis protest new government’s policies

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TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Thousands of Israelis took to the streets Saturday evening to protest plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government that opponents say threaten democracy and freedoms.

The protesters gathered in the central city of Tel Aviv days after the most right-wing and religiously conservative government in the country’s 74-year history was sworn in.

“The settler government is against me,” read one placard. Another banner read, “Housing, Livelihood, Hope.” Some protesters carried rainbow flags.

The protest was led by left-wing and Arab members of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. They contend that proposed plans by the new Cabinet will hinder judicial system and widen societal gaps.

The left-wing protesters slammed Justice Minister Yariv Levin, who on Wednesday unveiled the government’s long-promised overhaul of the judicial system that aims to weaken the country’s Supreme Court.

Critics accused the government of declaring war on the legal system, saying the plan will upend Israel’s system of checks and balances and undermine its democratic institutions by giving absolute power to the new governing coalition.

“We are really afraid that our country is going to lose the democracy and we are going to a dictatorship just for reasons of one person which wants to get rid of his law trial,” said Danny Simon, 77, a protester from Yavne, south of Tel Aviv. He was referring to Netanyahu, who was indicted on corruption charges in 2021, allegations that he has denied.

Protesters also called for peace and co-existence between Jews and Arab residents of the country.

“We can see right now many laws being advocated for against LGBTQ, against Palestinians, against larger minorities in Israel,” said Rula Daood of “Standing Together,” a grassroots movement of Arabs and Jews. “We are here to say loud and clear that all of us, Arabs and Jews and different various communities inside of Israel, demand peace, equality and justice.”

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