Protests stay strong in Israel as govt forges ahead with judicial changes

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of protesters returned to the streets of Israel on Saturday night to fight a plan to overhaul the country's court system that the justice minister said he is determined to carry out.

The marches have attracted huge crowds on a weekly basis since early January, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government took aim at the Supreme Court.

"Here I am, in my armor and my shield, doing my best," said Daniel Guytsabary, 28, amid a crowd that filled a Tel Aviv thoroughfare.

He was dressed as a knight in cape and helmet, and waved an Israeli flag. Others in the crowd carried a huge replica of Israel's declaration of independence.

They oppose legislation that Netanyahu and his right-wing and religious allies hope to pass that would limit the Supreme Court's powers to rule against the legislature and the executive, while giving lawmakers decisive powers in appointing judges.

Proponents say the Supreme Court needs to be reined in from overreaching into the political sphere. Critics say the plan will weaken the courts, endanger civil liberties and harm the economy along with ties with Western allies.

"I'm determined to complete the legislation," Justice Minister Yariv Levin said in an interview with Channel 13 on Saturday. "I don't think it's right to manage a country with threats and dictations from the street."

He repeated his openness to negotiate with opposition lawmakers, but not if their aim is simply to delay the legislation without end.

(Reporting by Rami Amichay and Ari Rabinovitch, Editing by Angus MacSwan)