Tens of thousands of Israelis gather in Tel Aviv to protest plans by PM Benjamin Netanyahu's far-right government to overhaul judicial system, measures that opponents say are undemocratic and enable more corruption.
Tens of thousands of Israelis have joined demonstrations against judicial reform plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu-led new far-right government that protesters say will threaten democratic checks and balances on ministers by the courts.
The protests late on Saturday followed another demonstration last week that also drew tens of thousands in an early challenge to Netanyahu and his ultranationalist government — the most right-wing in Israeli history.
The plans, which the government says are needed to curb overreach by activist judges, have drawn fierce opposition from groups including lawyers, and raised concerns among business leaders, widening already deep political divisions in Israeli society.
"They want to destroy democracy," the head of the Israeli Bar Association, Avi Chimi said.
"They want to destroy judicial authority, there is no democratic country without a judicial authority."
Netanyahu has dismissed the protests, now in their third week, as a refusal by leftist opponents to accept the results of last November's election, which produced one of the most right-wing governments in Israel's history.
The protesters say the future of Israeli democracy is at stake if the government succeeds in pushing through the plans, which would tighten political control over judicial appointments and limit the Supreme Court's powers to overturn government decisions or Knesset laws.
As well as threatening the independence of judges and weakening oversight of the government and parliament, they say the plans will undermine the rights of minorities and open the door to more corruption.
READ MORE: Israel Supreme Court orders Netanyahu to remove minister over conviction
'Not give up until we win'
Saturday's protests, which Israeli media said were expected to draw more than 100,000 people to central Tel Aviv, come days after the Supreme Court ordered Netanyahu to fire Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, who leads the religious Shas party, over a recent tax conviction.
Former Israeli prime minister Yair Lapid also joined tens of thousands of protesters in Tel Aviv, as frustration mounts over a raft of controversial moves by the new administration.
"People who love the state came to defend its democracy, its courts, the idea of a common life and a common good," Lapid tweeted, vowing to "not give up until we win."
The new government, which took office this month, is an alliance between Netanyahu's Likud party and a clutch of smaller extremist parties which say they have a mandate for sweeping change.
Netanyahu, who is himself on trial on corruption charges which he denies, has defended the judicial reform plans, which are currently being examined by a parliamentary committee, saying they will restore a proper balance between the three branches of government.
Likud politicians have long accused the Supreme Court of being dominated by leftist judges who they say encroach on areas outside their authority for political reasons.
The court's defenders say it plays a vital role in holding the government to account in a country that has no formal constitution.
A survey released by the Israel Democracy Institute last week showed trust in the Supreme Court was markedly higher among left-wing Israelis than among those on the right, but that there was no overall support for weakening the court's powers.
READ MORE: Tens of thousands rally in Israel against new Netanyahu government