Though the “March of the Million” outside the Knesset in Jerusalem on Thursday night may not have reached its intended audience (organizers claim 600,000 people attended; police claim 200,000), it successfully dispelled opposition claims that all Israelis are united against judicial reform.
Additionally, it gave the troubled government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu much-needed support.
Reform proponents have been reluctant to react to months of anti-reform demonstrations, which have put the coalition on the defensive and led Netanyahu to halt the process and enter into talks with the opposition under the supervision of President Isaac Herzog.
Those who support reform are concerned that the outcome will be a weaker version of the law. “Stop being afraid” and “We don’t need you” were among the rally’s audience shouts.
The chief architects of judicial reform, Justice Minister Yariv Levin of the Likud and Knesset Member Simcha Rothman of the Religious Zionism Party, who chairs the parliament’s Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee, received the loudest applause among the many politicians and right-wing figures who spoke to the crowd.
“In the election, Israel’s actual referendum, more than 2 million citizens cast ballots six months ago.
They supported the judicial change, said Levin. “With 64 mandates, we are present on this stage to correct an injustice: no more injustice, biased justice, or courts with judges above the Knesset and the executive branch.
Avichay Boaron, a Likud Knesset member, served as the master of ceremonies.
“The demonstration’s goal is to remind and demand of our elected officials in the coalition and government that the people want judicial reform, that the people support them, and that the people give them strength,” he stated.
Netanyahu, who could not attend due to security concerns, tweeted that he was “deeply moved” by the overwhelming support of the national camp in Jerusalem this evening.
We are first-class citizens thanks to the 64 mandates that led to our victory. I sincerely thank every one of you for your kindness.
The protest was supported by 29 NGOs, the largest of which was Tekuma 23, an organization that political activists Berale Crombie and Boaron established. Its goal is to increase support for judicial reform in the wake of anti-reform demonstrations.
The anti-reform rallies are gloomy spectacles with warnings of impending dictatorship, fights with police, solemn torchlit marches, and ladies costumed as Margaret Atwood-inspired handmaids with their heads down. The pro-reform rally was different in tone.
This gathering was raucous and felt like a giant block party. Large speaker systems played music. The protesters sang and danced. Strangers slapped each other on the back. It was joyful. Optimism was evident.