Demanding early elections, protesters chain themselves outside Knesset

At least four arrested as riot police disperse demonstration; inside the parliament building, families of October 7 victims hand out ‘dismissal letters’ to coalition lawmakers

Protestors chain themselves to the gates of the Knesset, Jerusalem, March 20, 2024. (Courtesy Bar Peleg / Haaretz)

Dozens of protesters chained themselves together outside the entrance to the Knesset in Jerusalem on Tuesday, while calling for the country to hold early elections.

The protest, dubbed “Day of Dismissal,” was organized by Changing Direction, a climate protest group originally founded as an offshoot of the global Extinction Rebellion movement, which has shifted its focus in recent months to include action against the government in the wake of the October 7 Hamas terror assault and subsequent war in Gaza.

In videos posted online by the group, protesters could be seen sitting in front of police barricades, chanting “You are in charge, you are to blame” at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Many of the protesters chained themselves together before the barricades while others used bicycle locks to attach themselves to parked cars.

“We are blocking the street entrances to the Knesset so that MKs cannot come in or out, and we’re calling for immediate elections,” one protester said in a recorded statement while sitting attached to a car with a bicycle lock around her neck. “This government is a disgrace, it is the most dangerous and terrible government in the country’s history. They have destroyed every reasonable mechanism that was left here, they brought us to war… they don’t care about the public.”

After the protest was declared unlawful by police, members of the Yasam riot police unit were deployed to disperse the demonstration. At least four protesters were said by the group to have been arrested in clashes with police as they attempted to bypass the barricades and enter the government complex.

Earlier on Tuesday, protesters handed out “dismissal letters” to coalition lawmakers at the Knesset.

These include Likud MK Yuli Edelstein, head of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, who told the uncle of a terror victim to “get out of my sight” while walking down a Knesset hallway.

“Today is the day of dismissals. This entire coalition is dismissed,” Roni Neumann, whose niece Rotem Neumann was murdered by Hamas terrorists at the Supernova music festival on October 7, told Edelstein at the entrance to parliament’s committee wing.

“This is the October 7 government,” he continued, after being brushed aside by Edelstein. “The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman failed on security and he tells me ‘Get out of my sight.’”

“You are dismissed,” Neumann yelled as the lawmaker walked away.

Activists are dispersed by police as they block a road outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, as part of a protest against the current Israeli government, March 20, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

After footage of the incident began circulating online Edelstein posted a statement to social media in which he spoke of meeting with families of victims of October 7. He did not directly mention the interaction with Neumann or apologize for the exchange.

“I do not judge any person who has lost what is most dear to him, or whose loved ones are now in the hands of a cruel and inhumane enemy,” Edelstein wrote. “Since October 7, I have met with dozens of family members. Anyone who asked to meet with me — I agreed immediately. Anyone who asked to consult with me…received my full attention.”

Saying that he has “never asked which [political] camp those who fell in battle or were murdered in criminal terror attacks belonged to,” Edelstein insisted that “we must maintain unity within ourselves and understand that we do not have the luxury of attacking each other.”

Relatives of hostages also handed out traditional Purim treat baskets known as mishloach manot to lawmakers. However, instead of holiday treats they contained moldy pita bread and olives, to represent food provided to the hostages by their Hamas captors in Gaza.

In an online statement, Changing Direction warned that the demonstration was just a “promo for the siege of the Knesset that will begin next week.”

“We are stepping up our fight for a responsible government,” the group said on X. “A responsible government is a government that in a time of crisis mobilizes for the benefit of the public, reduces government offices, does not take us to The Hague and does not abandon hostages.”

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