ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 140

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High Court says Ben Gvir violating ruling not to interfere with policing of protests

Far-right minister slams ‘outrageous decision’ by court to limit his control of police regarding implementation of policy on freedom of protest

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir (right) and Police Chief Kobi Shabtai at the funeral of Border Police officer Sgt. Shay Germay at Karmiel military cemetery on January 7, 2024. (David Cohen/Flash90)
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir (right) and Police Chief Kobi Shabtai at the funeral of Border Police officer Sgt. Shay Germay at Karmiel military cemetery on January 7, 2024. (David Cohen/Flash90)

The High Court of Justice issued an interim injunction on Wednesday barring National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir from giving operational orders to police forces regarding how they manage demonstrations and how they use force during protests.

The court ruled that the far-right minister had violated a decision by the court last year that said he was not permitted to issue such orders.

The court said that Ben Gvir “must refrain from giving operational instructions and orders to the police regarding the implementation of his policy on exercising the right to demonstration and freedom of protest.”

Additionally, the court said he must refrain from issuing orders as to whether force was to be used, how force could be used, and the means of dispersing protesters. The minister was also to have no involvement in whether permission was to be given for a protest to be held, or on the time, location or manner of the event.

In a statement, Ben Gvir slammed the court’s “outrageous decision,” claiming it “denied [his] authority to suppress support for the enemy during a time of war.”

In November, several organizations petitioned the High Court seeking to prevent Ben Gvir from instructing the police on how to respond to certain protests, after he spoke out against a rally calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and made clear his belief that it should not be allowed to take place.

People demonstrate against the war in Gaza sparked by Hamas’s Oct 7 onslaught in Tel Aviv, November 18, 2023 (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The petition against Ben Gvir followed numerous instances throughout the 2023 protests against the government’s judicial overhaul legislation in which the far-right minister was accused of closely involving himself in policing of the demonstrations in an attempt to repress them, pressuring police to use tougher methods of crowd dispersal.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara told the High Court that Ben Gvir has “wrongfully and illegally intervened in police work” related to the right to protest.

As minister in charge of police, Ben Gvir can set policy but is not permitted to instruct police on specific enforcement, Baharav-Miara said.

In her response to the petitions, Baharav-Miara told the High Court that a review of the case at hand indicated Ben Gvir “crossed a line” into “forbidden intervention” in police activity, and particularly criticized such intervention “in the sensitive issue of demonstrations and the right to protest.”

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara arrives to cast her ballot for the head of the Israel Bar Association at a voting station in Tel Aviv on June 20, 2023. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The November 18 protest in Tel Aviv was attended by some 700 people who called for an end to the war and the return of the hostages held by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza.

The war was triggered by the Hamas-led October 7 assault on southern Israel, in which some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed and more than 240 people were taken hostage.

While Israel’s war against the Hamas terror group enjoys wide support domestically, a minority has protested the military campaign in Gaza, calling for a ceasefire and diplomatic solution for the return of the hostages.

After Ben Gvir tried to block the demonstration, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) rights group requested that Baharav-Miara issue an injunction against Ben Gvir to ban him from trying to prevent future protests.

In her official response to the organization, the attorney general confirmed that Ben Gvir was not permitted to issue such orders. Baharav-Miara said that by trying to prevent the protest from taking place, Ben Gvir had overstepped his authority, adding that “his involvement in police work constitutes illegal interference and attempted influence.”

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