1674929679 Anti government protests begin with minutes silence for terrorist attack in

Anti-government protests begin with minute’s silence for terrorist attack in Jerusalem

Organizers of protests against the government’s plans to reshape Israel’s judiciary and weaken its powers said on Saturday that demonstrations would begin with a minute’s silence after Friday night’s deadly terror attack in Jerusalem.

“The murderous attack last night in Jerusalem rips hearts and souls apart. We share the pain and sorrow of the families of those murdered and wish the recovery of those injured,” the organizers said in a statement.

The main event in Tel Aviv will be held without music as a sign of respect for the families of the murdered, the statement said.

The rallies were to take place on Saturday evening, like last week, in Tel Aviv’s Habima Square and near the towers of the Azrieli Center.

Further protests were expected in Jerusalem, Haifa, Beersheba, Herzliya and other cities.

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The events are all expected to be held under tight security after forces were reinforced across the country and the West Bank after seven people were shot dead by a Palestinian terrorist outside a synagogue in East Jerusalem’s Neve Yaakov district.

Anti government protests begin with minutes silence for terrorist attack in

Members of the Zaka rescue and recovery team examine a body following a terrorist attack near a synagogue in Jerusalem, January 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

Police said on Saturday morning that the national alert level had been raised to the highest level, but it had not been clarified if and how monitoring of the protests could be affected.

Organizers again expected large numbers of people to attend the rallies after last week’s demonstrations were estimated to have drawn well over 100,000 protesters.

Speakers at this week’s Tel Aviv rally included former police chief Roni Alsheich, who oversaw the police investigation into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that led to an indictment of the prime minister and his ongoing trial on bribery, fraud and embezzlement charges.

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Former Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich arrives in Jerusalem on January 11, 2022 to testify before the Meron Disaster Inquiry Committee. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In addition, former MK Shirly Pinto, President of the Doctors Union Prof Hagai Levine and constitutional law expert Prof Yaniv Roznai will all speak in Habima Square, the Movement for Quality Government in Israel announced.

The protests are part of a wave of opposition to the hard-line government’s plans to reform the judiciary.

The plans envisage severely curtailing the Supreme Court’s ability to overturn laws and government decisions, and there would also be an “override clause” that would allow the Knesset to re-enact such deadlocked laws with a slim majority of 61.

The proposed changes would also give the government complete control over judge selection; prevent the court from using a test of “reasonableness” to evaluate laws and government decisions; and allow ministers to appoint their own legal advisers instead of seeking advice from advisers working under the auspices of the Justice Department.

Top economists, Israeli bank chiefs and business leaders have warned Netanyahu of the potential economic fallout of his government’s proposals for a sweeping overhaul of the country’s judiciary.

Bank CEOs told the Prime Minister on Friday that they are already seeing money being withdrawn from the country.

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A Likud party handout photo shows Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meeting with a group of businessmen at his Likud party headquarters in Tel Aviv on January 27, 2023. (Courtesy)

In addition, forty other economists — led by US economics Nobel laureate Eric Maskin and Israeli laureate Menahem Yaari — added their names to a letter published earlier this week opposing the proposed revision, bringing the number of signatories to 310.

“Reforming the judiciary system puts the Israeli economy at risk and may lead to a decline in Israel’s creditworthiness, investor flight and brain drain,” they said. “Many studies have already proven that the concentration of enormous political power in the hands of the ruling group without strong checks and balances could lead the country to economic decline.”

The letter, originally published Wednesday, was signed by both right- and left-leaning senior academics, including Nobel laureate Prof Daniel Kahneman and former Netanyahu economic adviser and head of the National Economic Council, Prof Eugene Kandel.

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Tech workers block the street in Tel Aviv on January 24, 2023 to protest the judiciary overhaul. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

His release came a day after Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron reportedly outlined the possible consequences of Netanyahu’s weakening of the courts and warnings from senior business figures and rating agency officials during his recent meetings at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

According to Israeli TV reports, Yaron Netanyahu specifically said the restructuring would hurt the economy.

Two of Yaron’s successors, Karnit Flug and Jacob Frenkel, have also spoken out against the government’s plans, warning in an op-ed on Sunday that it could negatively affect Israel’s creditworthiness and “deal a serious blow to the economy and its citizens.” a warning voiced by many workers in the technology sector.

Lawyers, students and other bodies have also expressed concern over the government’s planned judicial reforms, which critics say will undermine democracy and the economy.

Channel 12 and Ynet reported on Friday, citing unidentified sources, that the fierce public backlash over the proposed overhaul surprised and worried Netanyahu, who had hoped to pass changes without drawing such widespread condemnation and high-profile opposition from numerous leaders.

Netanyahu also reportedly wanted to avoid becoming the face of sweeping reforms as his ongoing criminal case allegedly prevents him from directly interfering in matters that could affect his legal affairs.

Also on Friday, some 200 leading Israeli musicians signed a petition against the government’s plans to shut down the public service broadcasting agency and vowed to “fight to preserve democracy”.

The artists – including stars like Shlomo Artzi, Shalom Hanoch, Rita, Ninet Tayeb and Ehud Banai – join hundreds of top actors, directors and writers who protested plans to shut down Kan earlier in the week.

“It is no coincidence that those who are trying to stage regime change and deprive democracy of all meaning have decided as one of their first steps to abolish public broadcasting,” the musicians said in the letter.

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Demonstrators against proposed changes to the justice system in Tel Aviv’s Habima Square on January 21, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Earlier this month, Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi said there was no reason to support Israel’s state public broadcaster and indicated that he intends to shut down the Kan channel along with other transmission regulators.

Karhi said his Likud party’s policy is to “remove barriers and abolish regulations” in the industry to allow the free market to prevail.

“I don’t think there is a place for a public broadcaster in this day and age when there’s a wide choice of channels,” he added.

Hundreds of actors, directors, writers and other cultural figures, along with staff from the public broadcaster Kan, attended a gathering held at the Tzavta Theater on Wednesday to oppose the plan.

Ahead of the meeting, organizers said the company provides employment for thousands of people and accounts for about 70 percent of the film and television industry workforce.

“Karhi seals mouths and dries up the source from which original content draws its power,” organizers said in a statement. They condemned the notion that original Hebrew-language content could be produced without public support as a “delusion.”

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Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi attends a conference on digital journalism at Reichman University in Herzliya on Jan. 9, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The Netanyahu-led Likud party has long been accused of wanting to shut down Kan over its criticism of the government while receiving public funds.

Kan went on the airwaves in 2017 after a long legislative battle to shut down and replace its predecessor, the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

At the time, then-Prime Minister Netanyahu – who also served for years as communications minister – was strongly opposed to the creation of Kan, reportedly claiming it was too left-leaning and too difficult to control.

Internal disagreements over the matter almost toppled the coalition in 2017. However, if the news department were to shut down now, the move would be unlikely to meet with opposition from Netanyahu’s current hard-line right-wing religious government.