Protesters against the coalition’s judicial overhaul plans demonstrated Wednesday evening outside a Mimouna event attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara in the northern city of Hadera.
Demonstrators waved Israeli flags, and some blocked the road outside of the community center where the celebration was held but were cleared away by mounted police.
Dozens of right-wing supporters of the government’s proposals also showed up to support the premier and were kept apart from the anti-government protesters by police.
Mimouna, a North African Jewish holiday marking the end of Passover, features large gatherings hosted in peoples’ homes.
Politicians like to attend the festivities to rub shoulders with their supporters.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been holding weekly mass protests around the country against the government’s highly divisive efforts to weaken the judicial system, with demonstrations continuing even after the coalition paused the legislation late last month to allow dialogue.
Dalit and Ronen, residents of the Hadera neighborhood where the celebration took place, said they were invited to the event but were removed after it emerged that they were not members of Netanyahu’s Likud party.
“We sat down, then suddenly people approached us and asked, ‘Are you Likud members?’ We said ‘no,’ then after a few minutes, they kicked us out,” Ronen said.
Ronen stated that he had lived in the neighborhood for 30 years, and said the incident was “unbelievable.”
“I really want to cry,” Dalit added.
Meanwhile, inside the center, Netanyahu gave a speech stressing the power of unity among the Jewish people.
“When we are united, there is no power in the world that can stand against us. We are fighting against Iranians, in Syria, in Lebanon, Gaza, and also yesterday in Judea and Samaria,” he said, using the biblical name for the West Bank. “I take my hat off to IDF soldiers. We will settle the score with all our enemies,” he added.
“We will overcome all divisions. We know what we paid when we were divided during the birth of our nation when there was the Kingdom of Judah, and then the Kingdom of Israel. After that, neither stood,” he said, referencing a deep rift in the Jewish people during the time of the Bible.
“I have complete faith in the future of Israel,” Netanyahu said.
פרשים מחוץ למימונה שבה יתארח נתניהו: מפגינים מוחים מחוץ לחגיגות בחדרה
(אורלי אלקלעי) pic.twitter.com/O5OhRYWpLy
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) April 12, 2023
The coalition’s proposals aim to weaken the court’s ability to serve as a check on the executive, which already controls parliament, while also handing the government control over the appointment of practically all judges, including in the Supreme Court.
Critics say the plans will politicize the court, remove key checks on governmental power and cause grievous harm to Israel’s democratic character. Proponents of the measures say they will rein in a judiciary that they argue has overstepped its bounds.
Netanyahu paused the legislative push late last month to allow for talks on a compromise deal, but many in the opposition say they suspect the government is insincere in its attempts to reach a deal.
Meanwhile, for the first time in history, Mimouna festivities were also held on Wednesday evening at the Knesset.
“You can see here politicians from all the political parties, citizens of Israel from all communities, from everywhere in the country, and that is the message. The Knesset is the home of every citizen of Israel, and it’s open to everyone,” Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana told Kan.