In an apparent bid to avoid protesters, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara arrived in the early hours of the morning Monday for a planned getaway at a hotel in the Golan Heights.
The couple did not show up as expected Sunday as police prepared for a repeat of the couple’s stay in August, when protests against the judicial overhaul and road closures frustrated local residents.
Police officers, accompanied by a water cannon for crowd dispersal, deployed to the moshav of Neve Ativ, as protesters arrived in anticipation of the expected visit Sunday.
After news emerged of his late-night arrival, protesters said Monday that they would demonstrate at the “democracy sukkah set up opposite the Netanyahus’ suite at 4 p.m.,” referring to the traditional booths set up for the festival of Sukkot.
They also accused Netanyahu’s staff of tearing down all the protest posters inside the community.
Last week, after finding out that the premier and his wife were planning to visit again, the moshav informed residents that a request had been sent to the couple asking them “to cancel the planned visit” to the local Panda Hotel.
The Netanyahus appeared to have rebuffed that appeal.
Their previous stay at the hotel drew hundreds of protesters who oppose the coalition’s controversial judicial overhaul plans to the normally quiet community. This in turn led police to heavily restrict movement in and out of Neve Ativ, to residents’ dismay.
Activists will be allowed into the moshav, in coordination with police and in accordance with a High Court of Justice ruling.
On Sunday, after the Netanyahus failed to show, protest organizers said in a statement they were “ready for any scenario.”
“Let every elected official who takes part in the destruction of democracy know — the citizens of Israel, the fighters for democracy, will be there at any place and at any time to protest and warn against the destruction that you are leading. Israel will not be a dictatorship!” the statement said.
The community said that during the prime minister’s previous stay, residents’ movements were severely restricted by the police closure of the moshav as they attempted to keep protesters away and suffered “serious harm to residents’ freedom of movement and work.”
“It’s important to emphasize that any scenario will disrupt the routine life of the moshav, so we will try to find the balance and reduce consequences. Closing gates and restricting movement will cause enormous damage to freedom of movement and tourism. Opening gates will cause hundreds of protesters to enter the community and disrupt routine,” it added.
Petitioned on the matter during the previous visit, the High Court ruled at the time that “there were a few mistakes” in the police’s handling of the protests in August. However, petitions against police conduct were dismissed because protesters were eventually allowed to enter the premises following a two-day standoff.
The protesters are opposed to the government’s highly contentious judicial overhaul program, which would remove many of the High Court of Justice’s checks and balances over the government. The first major piece of legislation in the overhaul was passed in July, barring the court from striking down cabinet or ministerial decisions and appointments based on the doctrine of reasonableness.
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.
Activists also pursued Netanyahu during his recent trip to the US.