Thousands of Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv for the fifth consecutive week to demonstrate against controversial legal reforms touted by Benjamin Netanyahu’s rightwing government.

Crowds carrying blue and white Israeli flags filled the city’s central Kaplan Street on Saturday, with signs labelling the new government a “threat to world peace”.

The protests have become a weekly fixture on Saturday evenings since the prime minister’s new government – dubbed the most rightwing in Israel’s history – took office in late December.

Local media reported that protests were held in 20 cities across the country and said tens of thousands gathered in Tel Aviv alone.

Among the crowd in Haifa was the former Israeli prime minister Yair Lapid, who said in a video posted to social media: “We will save our country because we are unwilling to live in an undemocratic country.”

Netanyahu returned to power following elections in November, at the head of a coalition with extreme-right and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties.

His judicial reforms would allow Israel’s parliament to overrule any supreme court decision with a simple majority of 61 lawmakers in the 120-seat body.

The proposed reforms would also change the system through which judges are appointed, giving politicians more control.

The government has also announced its intention to pursue a policy of settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, as well as social reforms that have worried the LGBTQ+ community.

Among the demonstrations, Dania Shwartz, 44, from Ramat Gan told AFP that protesters were “reclaiming” the Israeli flag.

“If you look around, there’s a lot of Israeli flags and for many years the Israeli flag was a symbol of the right,” she said.

“We are patriots and we want this country to keep existing. The Israeli flags belongs to all of us – this is not a question of being right or left.”

Shwartz also expressed concern that, as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, “this new government will try to pass laws that will affect my children”.

“For example the Noam party wants to delegitimise families like ours and it’s very scary,” she said, referring to one of Netanyahu’s coalition partners known for its virulently anti-gay stance.

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