The Likud party was seething Wednesday after the state prosecution said police can’t arrest protesters outside of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s home for blocking roads.
“The right to demonstrate does not include the right to block roads and violate police instructions,” the party said in a statement. “This is not what the rule of law and democracy looks like, but rather violent anarchy. It seems everything is kosher when it comes to an attempt to bring down Prime Minister Netanyahu.”
The statement came in response to a directive from Deputy State Attorney Nurit Littman reducing the ability of protesters taking part in the mass demonstrations against the prime minister to be prosecuted. According to the directive, the arrest of protesters must be examined, “depending on the type of offense and the circumstances of how it was carried out.”
The directive specifically stipulates that a person should be prosecuted for a prohibited gathering only if it was accompanied by an additional offense or was committed in “aggravated circumstances.”
According to the prosecution, there will be no enforcement against spontaneous roadblocks or citizens’ disregard for police calls for dispersal, and whoever does so will not be prosecuted unless it is “a blockage of a major road for a long time, or violence against police by protesters who refuse to disperse.”
Following the issuing of the directive, several Likud lawmakers slammed both the protesters and the state prosecution, with party MKs reportedly ordered to go on the attack.
The Black Flag Movement, one of the groups involved in organizing the protests, said in response that “a spokesman for the prime minister openly admits that the Likud is trying to use the police as a tool to crush the demonstrations against the criminal defendant.”
Vowing to continue to hold demonstrations, the group added that “the Israel Police’s role is to protect democracy and the citizens — we expect the police to behave in the demonstrations this coming weekend.”
Protesters have been holding regular rallies for several months outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, as well as in Tel Aviv and other areas, calling on the premier to resign due to his indictment on corruption charges.
The anti-Netanyahu demonstrations, held twice weekly in Jerusalem, draw thousands and have seen several clashes with police.
Some 1,500 anti-government protesters held a march in Jerusalem from the capital’s Chords Bridge to the Prime Minister’s Residence on Saturday night, despite police orders banning the movement of demonstrators.
Police attempted to stop the procession, leading to light scuffles and at least seven arrests, but then relented and allow the marchers to proceed to the main protest area near the Prime Minister’s Residence.
Following clashes between demonstrators and right-wing counter-protesters last month, the police ordered a halt to marches, saying that it was easier to control the events and protect demonstrators while they were stationary.
Protesters are rallying in Jerusalem and elsewhere against Netanyahu as part of ongoing demonstrations over the premier’s indictment on corruption charges and handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
They have been joined by people protesting the government’s economic policies during the coronavirus pandemic, with crowds in the thousands and rising.
The protests on Saturday nights tend to be the largest and have been the scene of clashes between protesters and law enforcement.