Israeli high-tech workers protest judicial reform plan

Hundreds of Israeli high-tech workers protested Tuesday against a proposed judicial overhaul, claiming the government's controversial plans will hurt the flourishing sector by undermining the rule of law.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government says judges have too much power over elected officials, arguing the proposed reforms -- such as allowing parliament to overrule Supreme Court decisions through a majority vote -- are essential to correct the imbalance.

But critics, including tens of thousands of demonstrators who have turned out in Tel Aviv and other cities this month, say the plans threaten Israeli democracy.

On Tuesday, around 500 high-tech workers held a brief protest, saying the industry would suffer if foreign firms lost confidence in Israel's legal system and democratic principles.

The demonstration blocked a road in Tel Aviv while some protesters held placards reading: "No democracy, no high tech".

Itzik Manheimer, a 49-year-old programmer, told AFP the "high-tech industry is in danger" if the reforms are enacted.

The crucial sector only "exists because our country is a democratic state", he said.

Israel's tech sector expanded substantially during Netanyahu's previous tenure in office from 2009 to 2021 and accounted for 54 percent of Israeli exports in 2021, or $67 billion, according to the most recent figures from the Israel Innovation Authority.

Libi Chigirinsky, another protesting employee, called for more workers to speak out, saying they were "too comfortable".

"It's very easy to be smart behind your keyboard, to sit and complain without doing anything," said the 45-year-old, who works for mobile games developer CrazyLabs.

"The time has come for high-tech workers to protest, for everyone to go to the street."

If passed, the reforms would also give lawmakers more authority to appoint Supreme Court judges, a role currently held by a panel of legal experts and overseen by the justice minister.

The proposed revamp has faced rare public criticism from Supreme Court president Esther Hayut, who has branded it an "unbridled attack" on the legal system.

Netanyahu and his allies, who last month formed the most right-wing government in Israeli history, have long accused top judges of advancing a left-wing agenda through key court rulings, including some related to the decades-long conflict with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu returned to office after spending just 14 months in opposition.

He is on trial on corruption charges, which he has dismissed as politically motivated.