Anti-government protesters plan new day of disruption, aim to block PM’s Rome trip

Organizers say Thursday to be national ‘day of resistance to the dictatorship,’ promise rallies, call for traffic disturbance around Ben Gurion Airport as Netanyahu heads to Italy

Demonstrators block a road and clash with police as they protest against the government's planned judicial overhaul, in Tel Aviv, March 1, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)
Demonstrators block a road and clash with police as they protest against the government's planned judicial overhaul, in Tel Aviv, March 1, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)

Organizers of protests against the government’s planned drastic overhaul of the judiciary are gearing up for another major campaign to disrupt daily life on Thursday, including blocking roads around Ben Gurion Airport in an attempt to prevent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from catching his flight for an official visit to Italy.

They dubbed the protest as “a day of resistance to the dictatorship, during which traffic in Israel will be disrupted: in the air, at sea, and on land.”

In a statement, they said that protest convoys, including some agricultural vehicles and equipment, will set off around the country throughout the day, along with rallies at different locations, an evening protest outside the home of Justice Minister Yariv Levin, and other actions against coalition lawmakers and ministers.

They specifically called for protesters to block roads around Ben Gurion Airport in the evening when Netanyahu and his wife are scheduled to depart on their flight to Italy. The trip already faced setbacks when pilots for national carrier El Al initially declined to fly the prime minister in apparent protest of the judicial legislation.

Also, a major rally in Tel Aviv will set off from the city’s Habima Square. In addition, there will be protests by workers from the tech sector at 15 locations around the country.

Organizers said the actions were only “initial events that can be revealed to media at the moment” and promised “many surprises.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) with Justice Minister Yariv Levin during a discussion and a vote in the Knesset, Jerusalem, on March 6, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Next week we will increase the efforts of the struggle with new means,” they vowed. “We will not stop the struggle for one minute until we ensure the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”

Protest organizers also responded to Netanyahu’s statement to the media Monday evening in which he spoke out against military reservists who are threatening to not turn up for service in protest of the judicial plans. Netanyahu said that “refusal to serve threatens the foundation of our existence, and therefore it must have no place in our ranks.”

“The dictatorship is an existential threat to the State of Israel,” protesters said in their response.

Critics say the proposed overhaul will weaken Israel’s democratic character, remove a key element of its checks and balances, and leave minorities unprotected. Supporters say it is a much-needed reform to rein in an activist court.

Last week, protesters held a “day of disruption” around the country with a flagship rally in Tel Aviv that blocked a key junction in the city. Police used horse-mounted cops, water cannons, and stun grenades to disperse them. The force came under criticism for the rough treatment of the protesters, including an officer who hurled a stun grenade into a crowd of people. An investigation has been opened into the officer’s actions.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir has instructed police to use a heavy hand against anti-judicial overhaul protesters who block roads, and who have been painted by himself and several members of the government as “anarchists.”

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