(JNS) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is working behind the scenes to drum up backing for a “Million-Person Protest” planned for Thursday in support of his government’s judicial reform initiative.
Netanyahu has met with stakeholders to ensure that they have the necessary resources to get people out onto the streets, and is urging haredi members of the governing coalition to call on their constituents to participate. The prime minister reportedly views the prospective rally as an “expression of public legitimacy” for the governing coalition and, by extension, for its reform program.
Netanyahu is not, however, expected to attend the rally, with officials citing security concerns.
Hundreds of Israelis joined a “freedom march” last Wednesday that concluded with a demonstration outside the Tel Aviv home of former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak.
Protesters held placards calling the court a “dictatorship” and declaring it is “harming national security.”
Barak, who served as Supreme Court president between 1995 and 2006, is widely considered responsible for the “Constitutional Revolution” that the current government seeks to moderate with its reform initiative.
Reformers will gather for the “Million-Person Protest” outside the Knesset in Jerusalem on April 27, in a show of strength and support for the government’s effort to restore checks and balances on the court.
Organizers said in a statement that the event will be “the largest demonstration in [the state’s] history,” and issued a call telling “government ministers and Knesset members: You have received a mandate to correct the injustice. We will not be second-class citizens!”
Justice Minister Yariv Levin on Saturday urged proponents “to stand between the Knesset and the Supreme Court and say with unprecedented determination: The people demand legal reform. The mandate received by the right-wing government must be realized.”
Court orders government to open gates to Palestinians on Memorial Day
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has decided that the government cannot bar entry to Palestinians on Israel’s Memorial Day.
The court overruled Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Sunday and ordered him to allow Palestinians to cross the Green Line to attend an annual joint Memorial Day event.
In its decision, the court expressed “regret” over Gallant’s decision earlier this month to bar Palestinian participants, despite previous rulings ordering the state to allow them to attend the event, now in its 17th year, hosted by Combatants for Peace.
Gallant had attributed his decision to “the complex security situation” in Judea and Samaria, and cited the standard practice of closing the crossings into Green Line Israel over Memorial Day and Independence Day to reduce the risk of terrorist attacks.
However, the court noted that the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories unit, which oversees civilian affairs in Israeli-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria, had approved the request, and that tens of thousands of Palestinians are routinely allowed into Israel every day for various reasons.
The Kohelet Policy Forum, an Israeli think tank that helped to formulate the government’s judicial reform initiative, slammed the court’s ruling.
“The petitioners asked the court to require the State of Israel to allow Palestinians to enter despite the [Green Line] closure, despite the security situation and despite the strong opposition of the defense minister. But, as is well known, in Israel, the attorney general decides what the state’s position is.
“And she [Gali Baharav-Miara] decided that entry must be allowed. This is how the theater of the absurd operates: An ostensible court hearing, which in practice constitutes a one-voice discourse—the petitioners together with the attorney general, and the Israeli government is not even represented in the hearing. And some people ask why there is a need for reform in regulating the attorney general’s powers?”
See related: Israelis Fear ‘Judicial Dictatorship’
A 2019 ruling by the Supreme Court overturned Netanyahu’s decision that year to deny permits to dozens of Palestinians planning to attend the event. The court deemed it illegitimate to bar the attendees’ entry for security reasons.
Organizers say the event is meant to bring Israelis and Palestinians together, whereas opponents argue it legitimizes Palestinian terrorism on a day when the Jewish people mourns its fallen heroes.
Israel will mark this year’s Memorial Day beginning at 8 p.m. on Monday, when a one-minute siren will sound across the country. Commemorations will take place at 52 military cemeteries and memorial sites during the following 24 hours, with the main ceremony held at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
Fifty-nine Israeli soldiers fell in the line of duty since the last Memorial Day and an additional 86 disabled veterans died due to their condition, the Defense Ministry announced over the weekend.
Overall, 24,213 soldiers and terror victims have lost their lives in service to the nation since 1860.
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