Activists urge High Court to okay protest in moshav where Netanyahus are vacationing

Protesters say police keeping additional demonstrators away from encampment set up outside northern community; police action ‘reserved for dark, dictatorial regimes,’ lawyer says

Michael Horovitz is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel

Workers and police prepare for the arrival of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhu and his wife Sara in Moshav Neve Ativ, August 7, 2023. (Ayal Margolin/Flash90)
Workers and police prepare for the arrival of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhu and his wife Sara in Moshav Neve Ativ, August 7, 2023. (Ayal Margolin/Flash90)

Protesters on Tuesday submitted an urgent petition to the High Court of Justice to allow them to demonstrate outside a Golan Heights hotel where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife are vacationing.

Demonstrators slept in tents outside Moshav Neve Ativ after police closed off the community on Monday, only allowing in residents and hotel guests. Protest organizers then claimed Tuesday morning that the authorities were also preventing further activists from joining their encampment and supplying them with food, water, and shade.

They said that despite an agreement with community representatives allowing them to protest within Neve Ativ, police prevented their entry.

“The police were aware of what was happening, but in practice, they closed the entrances to the community and prevented demonstrators from reaching it, while they were prepared in the field with reinforcements, mounted policemen, and a water cannon,” organizers said in a statement. This, they said, “paints an improper and ugly picture of democratic demonstrators as people who pose a danger.”

Gonen Ben Itzhak, an attorney for the petitioners, said that the blocking of protesters is an act “reserved for dark, dictatorial regimes.”

“The role of police is to balance security needs, the needs of the community, and the basic right to protest in a democratic country, but it seems… officers have become the servants of the dictatorship that is on its way,” his statement read.

Mirit Hagilboa, one of the protesters who tried to reach the tents outside Neve Ativ, told the Walla news site she was frustrated over the police presence.

“The amount of security is not proportional to the number of protesters. It feels like an aggression towards us… People came from all around the country in order to express their opposition in a legal manner and they were prevented from doing so,” she said.

The premier and his spouse, Sara, are staying at the Panda Hotel in Neve Ativ. About 20 of Neve Ativ’s 141 residents demonstrated against Netanyahu in relatively close proximity to the hotel, Haaretz reported Monday.

According to the report, protesters traveled to Neve Ativ on organized buses. The anti-overhaul movement had begun preparing for the Netanyahus’ visit last week.

Israelis protest against the visit of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, in Moshav Neve Ativ, August 7, 2023. (Ayal Margolin/Flash90)

Hotel guests told Ynet that they were not allowed to park their cars near the hotel, and therefore had to drag their luggage up a hill to reach the entrance.

Anti-overhaul demonstrations have regularly targeted members of the government with protests and heckling outside their homes and throughout the country at public and private events.

In March, demonstrators gathered outside Netanyahu’s hotel during his trip to London. In June, protesters disrupted a speech by Economy Minister Nir Barkat in New York City. Also in June, protesters following Knesset Constitutional Committee chairman Simcha Rothman in the streets of New York City caused the Religious Zionism lawmaker to lose his cool.

According to Channel 12 news, Netanyahu is not taking a vacation abroad because his recent pacemaker implant prevents him from air travel.

The highly contentious judicial overhaul would remove many of the High Court of Justice’s checks and balances over the government. The first law of the overhaul was passed in July, barring the court from striking down cabinet or ministerial decisions based on the doctrine of reasonableness.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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