Huge Crowd Supporting Judicial Reform Rallies at Knesset in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM, Israel – A crowd estimated at between 150,000 and 600,000 supporters of the Netanyahu government’s judicial reform plans gathered Thursday evening to rally in front of the Knesset.

After several months of weekly protests by opponents of judicial reform, members of Netanayhu’s Likud Party and the religious parties turned out in force after Independence Day, despite reports that bus drivers canceled transportation from outlying areas to Jerusalem at the last minute.

The prime minister tweeted his gratitude, saying “I thank the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who came to Jerusalem tonight to support our government. Your passion and patriotism moves me deeply.”

As the throng held up their lighted cell phones, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich told them, “Light the flame and keep raising it up. Look how many we are. We are the people. The people want reform. They will get it.” Smotrich added, “We have the people. They (anti-reform protesters) have the media.”

Justice Minister Yoav Levin (Likud) said, “”There is nothing in this (judicial) reform that is coercive or violates the individual rights that are important to all of us. We are told that if the reform passes there will be a dictatorship. There is no bigger lie than this. Show me one democracy where legal advisers decide instead of the government.”

Simcha Rothman (Religious Zionist Party), Chair of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, drew cheers from the crowd when he sharply criticized the entrenched powers in the judicial system. He said, “When an attorney-general, whom no one voted for and no can can fire, decides what is appropriate and what is reasonable without any responsibility – this is not democracy.” 

When the name of Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara was mentioned, the crowd booed loudly.

Addressing the negotiations over justice reform, Levin cautioned the opposition. “We have the chance to reach an agreement. Agreement means real negotiations and also a willingness to accept large parts of the reform and not to hold discussions over a month and say ‘no’ to every proposal.”

Many in the crowd outside the Knesset are aware that the U.S. State Department and non-governmental organizations helped fund the anti-judicial reform protests, which were held for 12 straight weeks in Tel Aviv and cities throughout Israel, and they believe that it represents an media-abetted effort to overturn the November, 2022, elections, from which the Likud and religious parties formed a sizable coalition.

One banner displayed on the rally stage read, “The election will not be stolen from us.”

Meanwhile, Economy Minister Nir Barkat’s office says he and others in his party were attacked by about 10 anti-government protesters as they left a Tel Aviv restaurant Thursday evening. One police officer was taken to the hospital and several people were arrested and reportedly released later Thursday.

Barkat sent wishes for the officer to recover quickly and said, “Everyone has the right to demonstrate, but no one has the right to act violently.”

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