Fighting back: Tens of thousands of demonstrators back judicial reform

Too little, too late? People held signs protesting the “theft” of their vote and demanded that the government stick to its reform plans.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered in Jerusalem Monday evening to support the government’s efforts to carry out its judicial reform plans.

Standing near Sacher Gardens and in front of the Knesset, the crowds waved Israeli flags as they held signs with slogans such as “They are stealing the elections from us” and “I serve in the army but am a second-class citizen.”

Many who support the religious parties that are Likud’s main coalition partners believe that the Supreme Court automatically rules against them in such cases as the right to build in Judea and Samaria and the implementation of an incremental draft law for the ultra-Orthodox. They fervently support changing the makeup of the Judicial Selection Committee to rid it of the natural veto the justices currently hold.

Many displayed one of the right-wing’s main contentions, that the elected legislature’s power has been eroded by an unelected judiciary’s constant interference, with a pre-printed sign saying, “Stop the rule of the Supreme Court! Reform now!” Others held home-made posters with the same idea, such as one that said, “We are all prisoners of the Supreme Court.”

After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a freeze on the reform legislation in an effort to reach a compromise with the opposition, at least one demonstrator could be seen writing a new sign, using Netanyahu’s nickname: “Bibi folded.”

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One demonstrator told the Walla news site, “There’s a strong need for legal reform. The side that’s against the reform did not accept the decision of the voter…. If Netanyahu surrenders, then I see him as a prime minister who can be pressured and who is unable to run the government and follow the voters’ will.”

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who heads the Religious Zionism party, called to continue the legislative process, telling the masses, “You represent the majority of the nation – the Zionist, nationalist, determined Jew. The one who wants to fix the justice system and make changes that will strengthen Israeli democracy and the Jewish state.”

Addressing Netanyahu,he said, “See how great the support is, how much love there is, how much determination.”

However, Smotrich later agreed to the delay announced by Netanyahu.

At one point later in the evening, hundreds temporarily blocked Begin Boulevard, one of the city’s main arteries. Dozens also started walking towards the prime minister’s home but were stopped by the police, who said that some pro-reform demonstrators threw objects at them and at journalists.

Smaller demonstrations by supporters of judicial reform took place in other parts of the country, such as Haifa, Tel Aviv and Eilat. After Netanyahu’s announcement about delaying the overhaul, a few activists in Tel Aviv threw a smoke grenade at anti-reform protestors who had gathered nearby.

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