People poured into Jerusalem from all directions on Monday. The opponents of the new Israeli government had decided to take the protest against its judicial reform to the government district. By noon, tens of thousands had gathered around the Knesset, and in the afternoon the number of participants was estimated to be at least 80,000. Numerous strikes and other protest marches throughout the country flanked the main demonstration. Again and again it was warned that Israel would no longer be a democracy if the reform plans were implemented. Many demonstrators carried the blue and white Israeli flag. Again and again, two battle cries were chanted: "democracy" and "shame" – the latter with a view to the desired legislative changes, which would lead to the weakening of the judiciary.

Christian Meier

Political correspondent for the Middle East and North East Africa.

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The scene made it clear that the protest is supported by numerous social groups. People of all ages had come. On display were both the black flags and symbols of the anti-Netanyahu protests of 2020/2021 and the rainbow flags of the LGBT movement. Some posters drew a parallel between Hitler's seizure of power in 1933 and today.

Shouting duels in the Knesset

Even critics of the occupation rule over the Palestinians were represented, they presented their concerns under the slogan "Democracy for all". The chants of the counter-demonstrators, mainly from the national-religious camp, "The people want reform" were booed down by the crowd. The leaders of the parliamentary opposition also appeared. Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid party said they would not stand by and watch the government turn the country into a "dark dictatorship" and "destroy everything we hold dear." He called for resistance: "We will fight until we win!" The leader of the Labor Party, Merav Michaeli, called the government's offers of talks a "trap."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later criticized the opposition leaders; they should "stop driving the country into anarchy," he said. Justice Minister Jariv Levin and Knesset member Simcha Rothman, two driving forces behind the judicial reform, had previously made offers of dialogue – also under the impression of a dramatic televised speech by President Itzchak Herzog on Sunday evening. At the same time, they made it clear that they do not want to suspend the legislative process, which is a core demand of the opposition. However, the first reading of the law, which gives the government camp control over the judicial election commission and deprives judges of the possibility of objecting to "Basic Laws", has been postponed and will now take place on Wednesday at the earliest.

The bill was passed in the morning in a tumultuous session of the Knesset Judiciary Committee, which Rothman heads. Opposition MPs sang, banged on tables and shouted "Shame!", there were shouting duels. Numerous opposition MPs were expelled from the hall. They accused Rothman of pushing through the bill and not letting them have enough to speak.