Former MK calls on anti-government protesters to use nonviolent ‘illegal acts’

Likud slams ex-Meretz lawmaker Yair Golan for ‘incitement and sedition,’ calls for a police investigation of comments

Former MK Yair Golan attends a protest against the government organized by the Movement for Quality Government, in Tel Aviv on December 17, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/ Flash90)
Former MK Yair Golan attends a protest against the government organized by the Movement for Quality Government, in Tel Aviv on December 17, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/ Flash90)

A former left-wing lawmaker drew fire on Tuesday after he called on citizens to utilize illegal means in ongoing protests against the government.

“In the face of attempts to annihilate Israeli democracy, we will engage in clear and unequivocal civilian opposition, and if we need to resort to broad, nonviolent civil disobedience, that’s what we’ll do,” former Meretz MK Yair Golan said in an interview with the Kan public radio. “Disobedience cannot be fully legal.”

Pressed on the issue, Golan said, “I am calling here, within a reasonable framework, without resorting to violence, to also commit illegal acts.”

“If during the struggle for democracy, we need to do things that are fully, I stress, nonviolent, but are certainly on the margins of the law, we have no option but to do that,” he added.

Golan, who is also a retired major general in the IDF, served as a lawmaker with Meretz from 2019 until last year, when the left-wing party failed to cross the electoral threshold. Over the past six months he has become a prominent voice in the ongoing protests against the government’s judicial overhaul plans.

In response to Golan’s comments, the ruling Likud party issued a statement calling for “an immediate investigation” into his “incitement and sedition.” The party added: “Anyone who breaks the law must pay a price, otherwise there is no meaning to the rule of law.”

Former prime minister Ehud Barak (L) shakes hands with Yair Golan after announcing the formation of a new party at Tel Aviv’s Beit Sokolov on June 26, 2019. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)

Religious Zionism MK Ohad Tal sent a letter to the attorney general — as well as to National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and the Israel Police — requesting that she investigate Golan for his comments, and accusing law enforcement of treating others who have made similar comments with “kid gloves.”

Former prime minister Ehud Barak, another prominent anti-overhaul protester, has also repeatedly called for “civil disobedience” in recent months, garnering angry reactions from coalition lawmakers.

Golan’s comments came the same day that hundreds of protesters against the judicial overhaul staged a fiery demonstration outside Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s home, burning tires and blocking roads, leading to six arrests.

Officers used pepper spray to clear the protesters and video showed police attempting to forcibly remove demonstrators who were sitting in the street. The rally was organized by Brothers in Arms, a protest group of military reservists.

Levin later released a searing statement in which he seemed to accuse police of being intentionally slow in responding. He also railed at Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara for opposing his proposals to weaken the judiciary and shift some of its powers to elected officials.

“The violent incidents, the open calls for rebellion, the threats and incitement to violence… have up to now not earned a single word of public comment on the part of the attorney general or her team,” Levin charged.

Opponents of the government’s judicial overhaul plans protest outside Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s home in Modiin, June 27, 2023. (Jonathan Shaul/Flash90)

“The attorney general and the law enforcement system under her are ignoring the violence, if not winking at the instigators, and allowing the lawlessness to run rampant,” he alleged.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later issued a statement on the events outside Levin’s home, which he charged were “a direct result of the calls for rebellion and a civil uprising.” He was referring to Barak’s calls for “nonviolent civil disobedience” and a “revolt” against the government’s push to overhaul the judicial system.

Protests against the coalition’s broader overhaul plan are in their 25th week, joined by a chorus of academic, judicial, diplomatic, economic and opposition political voices that warn that the coalition’s plan will threaten Israel’s liberal democratic system of governance.

Several months after Netanyahu froze the legislation to allow for compromise talks that ultimately went nowhere, the government has been surging ahead with elements of its contentious overhaul, vowing to pass some legislation before the end of next month, when the Knesset summer recess begins.

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