MANHATTAN, N.Y. (PIX11) — Hundreds of Jewish Americans rallied on Monday outside the Israeli Consulate in Midtown, condemning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and calling for equality and justice in Israel.
They are protesting Netanyahu’s plan to overhaul Israel’s judicial system — a plan he just paused in response to protesting in his own country. Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Israel over the past few weeks, calling Netanyahu’s plan a threat to democracy that would give the government unchecked power. There have been threats from universities to close, unions to strike and military reservists to resign.
“Now is the time to imagine a different future,” said Libby Lenkinski of the New Israel Fund.
“We feel like Israel is imploding, is on the verge of destruction,” said New Yorker Doron Friedman. “I spent the whole night dozing in and out, radio is turned on and I’m listening to them and I’m checking what’s happening. This is our lives for the last few weeks.”
New York politicians are weighing in, as well. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, a staunch U.S. ally and nuclear power, but it has also been accused of violating the human rights of Palestinians. Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine said he is deeply alarmed by the threat to democracy.
“Those who are in Israel fighting and standing up for the rule of law, for an independent judiciary, for equal rights, for freedom of speech, freedom of the press — I want them to know that there are many of us in New York who support them,” said Levine.
Vedant Patel, principal deputy spokesperson for the United States Department of State, said the government welcomes Netanyahu’s announcement to pause the judicial overhaul.
“This is something that the president had the opportunity to do recently — discussed with Prime Minister Netanyahu about democratic principles that have always been, and must remain, a hallmark of the U.S.-Israel relationship.”