80,000 gather to protest Netanyahu government in Israel

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Jan. 14 (UPI) — Tens of thousands of Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on Saturday to protest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s new government.

Observers estimated the rally in Tel Aviv attracted 80,000 participants who turned out to denounce Netanyahu’s proposals on reforming the court system and the presence of ultraorthodox and right-wing ministers in the governing coalition.

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Police numbering in the hundreds turned away some protestors because of heavy congestion in the Tel Aviv’s Habima Square, while a similar protest in Jerusalem drew 1,500 protestors.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak was one of the protesters at Habima Square, where some carried banners criticizing the presence of hard right parties in the governing coalition.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, a prominent right-wing figure who has long courted controversy, was a particular focus of the protesters, according to i24 News.

Netanyahu last month formally became prime minister of Israel again, starting his record-setting sixth term in leading the nation with arguably its most conservative government in memory.

Opponents have argued his government has already moved to restrict the rights of minorities and reduce the role of the Israeli judiciary. Members of the new coalition also exert influence over the army and security forces, and allow harsher treatment of Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories.

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Some have criticized Netanyahu for signing an agreement canceling an anti-discrimination law, allowing hospitals, hotels and other businesses to deny service to members of the LGBTQ community and others on the basis of religious belief.

Some of the protestors on Saturday carried pride flags.