An estimated 110,000 Israelis turned out to two rallies in Tel Aviv on Saturday to protest a proposed reform to the justice system. This is the third such event in the coastal city in as many weeks. Thousands more rallied in Haifa, Jerusalem, and Be'er Sheva.
Politicians addressing protesters in Tel Aviv included opposition leader and former prime minister Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz, a former defense minister and alternate prime minister.
"What you see here today is a demonstration in favor of the country. People who love this country came here to defend it, its democracy and its courts," Lapid said at the larger of the two demonstrations outside the Azrieli center.
Gantz said that "we encourage the protest and see it as backing for our political activity at the various levels. We can argue about many things, just not about Israeli democracy. We are ready to reach agreements on the reform, but that does not mean that we will compromise on democracy. There will be no compromise on democracy, the rule of law and a strong and independent judiciary."
Another speaker was the celebrated Israeli novelist David Grossman, who said that "the house is on fire. Now is the time that we assert who we truly are and what kind of future we bequeath to our children."
Earlier this month Yariv Levin, a justice minister in Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing government, announced a plan to hand more powers to lawmakers in appointing judges and overriding Supreme Court decisions.
Critics say Levin's reforms would cripple judicial independence, set back minority rights and compromise the credibility of the courts system. Among those opposed are the Supreme Court chief justice and the country's attorney-general, while critics of the Supreme Court say it is overreaching and unrepresentative of the electorate.