Hundreds of Thousands Take to the Streets, Vow Netanyahu’s ‘Pause’

Hundreds of thousands of Israelis protested against the far-right government’s judicial overhaul plan in some 150 locations across the country on Saturday, in a sign that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement this week that he was temporarily suspending the legislation had not subdued opposition in the streets.

Youth activists burning conscription warrants at the demonstration held in Tel Aviv’s Kaplan Street, Saturday, April 1, 2023 (Photo: Mesarvot)

The main rally was held for the 13th straight weekend on Tel Aviv’s Kaplan Street and Azrieli Junction, which were filled to the brim with demonstrators. Tens of thousands protested in Jerusalem and Haifa. According protesters by 10 p.m., some 450,000 people had been in attendance at various protests across the country. “Netanyahu’s attempt to put the protesters to sleep failed,” the organizations said. “Over 445,000 pro-democracy demonstrators took to the streets of Israel tonight, in one of the largest demonstrations in Israeli history. We will continue to be in the streets until we guarantee that the State of Israel is a democracy.” At the main protest in Tel Aviv, some 230,000 people were reported to be in attendance. At the anti-government demonstration in Tel-Aviv, Mesarvot youth activists burned conscription warrants. They refuse to serve the occupation and apartheid. Protesters blocked the Karkur junction in northern Israel, with nearly 2,000 demonstrators arriving at the area to protest, Zo Haderech reported.

Protest organizers also appealed to the police commissioner on Saturday night to hold an emergency meeting to discuss violence used against demonstrators. In Haifa, a Hadash protester who waved a Palestinian flag at the demonstration was arrested on suspicion of “assaulting a police officer and disorderly conduct,” Zo Haderech reported. Also in Haifa, the Block against Occupation protesters that waved Palestinian flags were not allowed by cops to reach the demonstration.

In Tel-Aviv, 19 people were arrested in Tel Aviv during the Saturday night protests.  A mounted police officer beat a young woman. In widely circulating footage of the incident, two mounted police officers close in on a young woman and young man carrying signs on the Ayalon Highway and push them back when one of the officers strikes the woman in the upper body.

On Friday, hundreds of anti-overhaul demonstrators picketed outside the homes of Economy Minister Nir Barkat, Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter and MK David Bitan — all of Likud — seeking to exert additional pressure on them. Over one hundred people also gathered outside the home of National Unity chair, MK Benny Gantz, who has been the most vocal opposition lawmaker in favor of compromise with the coalition. The protesters urged him not to do so, chanting slogans such as, “you have no mandate to compromise on democracy.” Dozens also protested against the overhaul at Ben Gurion Airport, holding up signs that read, “welcome to the dictatorship.”