Whilst mainstream international media Israeli networks have been reporting on the weekly demonstrations in Israel that have attracted tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands, of people in protest of the proposed judicial reform, a different kind of rally took place in Jerusalem last night. While some reports place the numbers at 200,000, others say as many as 600,000 people gathered across from Israel’s Parliament in Jerusalem on Thursday night to express their support for changing the way the judicial system is run in Israel. In addition, after weeks of anti-government protests, many saw this rally as the right-wing voter’s response to show their support for Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s conservative government.
Called the “March of the Million” by organizers, some 1,000 buses brought citizens from all across the country to participate in the rally, in favor of the Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s proposed judicial reform plan. The crowds were noticeably tilted towards a younger, religious demographic, but brought together Israelis from all walks of life. They came from all across Israel, including thousands from Judea and Samaria.
At the beginning of the rally, the Israeli Police estimated that there were 200,000 people in attendance. As the night went on, however, and crowds began to swell, organizers estimated that as many as 600,000 people packed the streets of Jerusalem around the Knesset building.
After four months of the weekly protests by left-wing crowds in Tel Aviv, the coalition government in Israel was strengthened to see that there are just as many, if not more, citizens who are supporting the policies of the government that was sworn in during the first week of January. Indeed, considering there were several million people who voted for Binyamin Netanyahu and the coalition that he put together, the voice of the people of Israel has been heard loud and clear.
Im Tirtzu, a right-wing Zionist NGO operating in Israel, helped to organize several hundred of the buses that brought people to Thursday’s rally. Matan Peleg, the CEO of Im Tirtzu, had this to say ahead of last night’s protest:
“The demonstration is a full-throated endorsement of democracy. After five rounds of elections, the National Camp finally and definitively won an election that represents a clear mandate. Unfortunately, instead of being allowed 100 days for the new government to prove itself, they were given 100 days of unrelenting opposition, some of which was anarchy.
“The reality is that the real victim of these endless attacks has been democracy itself, as well as Zionism. That is why we are calling on everyone to come to the Knesset today! Defend Democracy! Defend Zionism! Defend the sovereign State of Israel!”
One of the slogans that the protest was organized under was “The people demand judicial reform,” and it was heard being chanted by thousands all throughout the night.
Justice Minister Yariv Levin, who drafted the initial judicial reform plan, said:
“We want a court for everyone… not for half the public,” he said, adding that “over two million people voted for reform half a year ago.”
Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, chief rabbi of Tzfat (Safed), and a leading figure in Israel, spoke to Israel National News at the rally:
“The people of Israel live; they left their homes – and their fears. The people of Israel came out en masse. Here, we strengthened the people of Israel and explained that the people have vital forces, and the clear mind and will to say ‘I am not a second-class citizen’. After this evening, it seems to me that the fear that the judicial reform could be torpedoed is over.”
While Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu did not attend the protest, likely due to security concerns, he posted strong messages of support on social media. A large number of MKs and Ministers did attend, including Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, Justice Minister Yariv Levin, MK Israel Katz, MK Simcha Rothman, and others.
While many from the conservative view in Israel feared that the new government’s judicial reform plans would be scuttled due to the weekly demonstrations in Tel Aviv, last night’s rally showed that just as many, if not many more, of Israel’s citizens support Netanyahu’s government, including the plan to reform the Supreme Court and the judiciary system in Israel.