High Court okays limited protests outside attorney general’s home
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Up to 500 protesters permitted, with no loudspeakers and only two megaphones

High Court okays limited protests outside attorney general’s home

Rejecting police restrictions, judges say demonstrators' right to protest more important than Petah Tivka residents' complaints of disturbance

Raoul Wootliff covers politics, corruption and crime for The Times of Israel.

Menny Naftali (C), the former housekeeper of Prime Minister's Residence, and Israeli activist Eldad Yaniv (2R) outside the courtroom of the High Court in Jerusalem, August 24, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Menny Naftali (C), the former housekeeper of Prime Minister's Residence, and Israeli activist Eldad Yaniv (2R) outside the courtroom of the High Court in Jerusalem, August 24, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The High Court of Justice issued a temporary injunction Thursday allowing demonstrations outside of Attorney General Avichai Mandeblit’s home to continue until further notice, after police sought to ban the weekly protests calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be indicted in a pair of corruption investigations.

Despite allowing the protests to continue without police approval, the court ruled that the demonstrations in Petah Tikva’s Goren Square must not exceed 500 people and that additional participants must gather in a nearby park.

The ruling came in response to a petition to the court filed by protest organizers after police blocked demonstrators from reaching Mandelblit’s home last weekend and said any future protests would require police permits.

The demonstrations, which have taken place every Saturday evening since December 2016, have grown dramatically in recent weeks amid developments in the corruption cases involving Netanyahu. Two weeks ago, over 2,500 people took part.

Demonstrators protest near the home of Attorney General Mandelblit in Petah Tikva on August 5, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Demonstrators protest near the home of Attorney General Mandelblit in Petah Tikva on August 5, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

During the hearing, Judge Yoram Danziger addressed complaints that the protests were a nuisance to residents of the Kfar Ganim neighborhood, saying the right to protest took precedence.

“The residents’ right to enjoy quiet is not a legal right that even approaches the level of a legal right such as the right to protests and freedom of expression,” he said.

Despite ruling that the resident’s desire for quiet was not grounds to prohibit the protests, in addition to limiting the number of participants, the court barred protesters from using loudspeakers during the demonstrations and limited the number of megaphones at the protests to two.

The court also ruled the demonstrations cannot begin until after 8 p.m., around the time that Shabbat ends, and that protesters may not enter the street or disturb traffic.

During the hearing, police accepted the terms proposed by the judges but protest leaders said they would not voluntarily accept any limitations. In response, judges issued the temporary injunction and said they would give a final ruling in the coming days.

Menny Naftali, one of the two protest leaders arrested Saturday night for trying to reach the protest despite a police blockade, said in response that he would respect the ruling but would not give up fighting to hold the protests without limitations.

“We cannot allow the police efforts to stop the protest to distract us from the real issues,” he told Channel 2 News Thursday evening. “We will stay there, outside Mandelblit’s house, until true justice is done and corruption is eradicated.”

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit attends a ceremony in Jerusalem, June 13, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit attends a ceremony in Jerusalem, June 13, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The attorney general — a former cabinet secretary to the prime minister — is overseeing two separate criminal investigations against Netanyahu, known as Case 1000 and Case 2000.

Case 1000 revolves around alleged illicit gifts given to Netanyahu and his family by billionaire benefactors, most notably hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne said to have been given to the prime minister and his wife Sara by Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.

Netanyahu and his wife are said to have denied that receiving the gifts constituted a criminal offense, claiming the value of the items was significantly lower than reported and that they were mere “trifles” exchanged between close friends.

Case 2000 is focused on an alleged clandestine quid pro quo deal made between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher and owner Arnon “Noni” Mozes, in which the prime minister is said to have promised Mozes he would advance legislation to reduce the circulation of Yedioth’s main commercial rival, the freebie Israel Hayom, in exchange for friendlier coverage from Yedioth. No such deal was ever implemented.

Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.

The demonstrations were first kick-started by Naftali, who has in the past alleged he was verbally and physically abused by the prime minister’s wife during his employment. In February he was awarded NIS 170,000 (about $43,735) in damages after a labor court accepted his claims.

On Wednesday, Naftali denied reports that he may become a state’s witness in a separate police investigation into Sara Netanyahu for allegedly diverting public money for her private housekeeping expenses.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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