High Court: Police should not have barred protesters from reaching Netanyahu’s hotel

Justices hint at improper conduct, although petition has been dismissed after police eventually allowed demonstrators into Neve Ativ

Israelis protest against the visit of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, in Moshav Neve Ativ, northern Israel, August 8, 2023. (Ayal Margolin/Flash90)
Israelis protest against the visit of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, in Moshav Neve Ativ, northern Israel, August 8, 2023. (Ayal Margolin/Flash90)

The High Court of Justice insinuated Wednesday that the police mishandled the demonstrations outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hotel in the north this week.

“It’s possible that from the start, as the situation was developing, there were a few mistakes,” the court wrote regarding the police’s decision to block off the entrance to Neve Ativ in the Golan Heights, where Netanyahu and his wife Sara are vacationing.

However, petitions against the police’s conduct were dismissed because protesters were eventually allowed to enter the premises of the moshav following a two-day standoff.

Anti-judicial overhaul protesters said that the police’s decision to block off Neve Ativ infringed upon their constitutional right to demonstrate.

The police initially responded to the petition, saying that in light of the “complex topographical area” in which the prime minister was staying, a balance had to be made between the protesters’ freedom of expression and the Netanyahus’ safety. However, they changed their approach after the petition was filed.

The couple arrived in the moshav on Monday night and are scheduled to remain there until Thursday, according to public broadcaster Kan.

Police closed off all entry to the moshav on Monday, leading to complaints from residents as well as activists, with the latter submitting two petitions to the High Court against the move.

Israelis protest against the visit of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, in Moshav Neve Ativ, August 7, 2023. (Ayal Margolin/Flash90)

Demonstrators slept in tents outside Neve Ativ on Monday night after police closed off the community, only allowing in residents and hotel guests.

Protest organizers quoted by Kan claimed that up to Tuesday morning, the authorities were also preventing further activists from joining their encampment and supplying them with food, water and shade.

But on Tuesday afternoon, the police decided to allow the demonstrators to move forward and gather some 300 meters from the hotel.

Moshav secretary Assaf Vankert told Kan that the community was under siege, since entrance gates were locked and farmers could not reach their fields.

“Security forces violated all the agreements we made with them,” he said. “We went to talk with the commanders of the ‘operations room’ near the hotel asking for help, to no avail.”

The protests 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 law of the overhaul was passed in July, barring the court from striking down cabinet or ministerial decisions 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.

In March, demonstrators gathered outside Netanyahu’s hotel during his trip to London. In June, protesters disrupted a speech by Economy Minister Nir Barkat in New York City. Also in June, protesters following Knesset Constitutional Committee chairman Simcha Rothman in the streets of New York City caused the Religious Zionism lawmaker to lose his cool.

According to Channel 12 news, Netanyahu is not taking a vacation abroad because his recent pacemaker implant prevents him from air travel.

Michael Horovitz contributed to this report.

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