Supporters of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to reform the country’s judicial system flocked to the streets of the capital city – part of a national day of support for the conservative leader’s effort.
News reports say at least 200,000 people filled the streets of the ancient city of Jerusalem, waving flags and singing religious Jewish songs.
The nationwide turnout – known as the “Million March” – featured citizens from all over Israel, mostly religious, to counter the protests in opposition to the plan that have rocked the country over the past several months.
Netanyahu in late March delayed a vote on the reform due to security concerns surrounding the protests ahead of Passover, Ramadan and Easter.
The Israeli parliament, or Knesset, is set to reconsider the issue after reconvening from its holiday break.
Adam Russo, a Jerusalem resident who came to the march carrying a Gadsten flag with the message, “Don’t Tread on Me,” told Just the News, “I’m here because they stole our democracy. … I think that we have a right to decide what kind of path our country should take.”
Russo also said it is “undemocratic” that the Knesset can pass a law with a 61 vote-majority, but the 15-member Supreme Court, which is not picked by the people and often issues liberal rulings, has the final say on matters.
Under the current system, judges are confirmed by a 9-member committee consisting of three current justices, two Israel Bar Association members and four elected officials, but Netanyahu’s plan would replace the Bar Association members with elected officials, shifting the balance of power in favor of the Knesset. The reform would also lower the justices’ retirement age from 70 to 67, but the possibly most controversial part of the proposal would allow the Knesset to overrule court decisions in a simple majority vote.
“We are not trying to turn it into a dictatorship,” Russo said. “We are not trying to take away people’s freedoms.”
Several other protesters also held Gadsden flags, and when asked about why he carried one, Russo, who is not a U.S. citizen, said: “I’m inspired by the American Revolution. I’m inspired by the American ideal. I’m saddened to see what’s happening in America these days. … We’re all fighting the same fight. It’s populism against elitism.”
More than 1,000 buses of demonstrators arrived in Jerusalem, and the march’s organizers were hopeful the turnout could ultimately reach half a million people, according to Israel Channel 7.
During the protest, right-wing politicians addressed the crowd, demonstrators handed out food and said evening prayers and children waved light-up toys as it got dark.
“An entire camp cannot live with the knowledge that they are worth less. If there is no reform – that means that our votes at the voting booth are not worth anything. We are the majority at the voting booths, but we can’t really run the country. This reality must change,” Knesset Member Avichay Buaron of Netanyahu’s Likud Party said at the rally, as translated.
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