Likud minister said to get boosted security amid protests against government

Shlomo Karhi, who said fighter pilots threatening to ditch reserve duty could ‘go to hell,’ sees uptick in online threats; hundreds demonstrate at homes of Likud’s Silman, Gamliel

Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi seen after a meeting with Shas head Aryeh Deri outside his home in Jerusalem on January 18, 2023.  (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi seen after a meeting with Shas head Aryeh Deri outside his home in Jerusalem on January 18, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Security officials recently decided to boost the detail of Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi following a rise in threats made against him online, Kan news reported on Friday.

Karhi has been one of the most vocal and uncompromising proponents of the government’s effort to overhaul the judiciary.

Earlier this month, Karhi wrote in a Purim holiday message that fighter pilots threatening to ditch reserve duty in protest of the overhaul could “go to hell.” He has also sought to use his post in order to shutter Kan (critics say he and the coalition are doing so in order to curtail critical media), though his initiative has been shelved by the government for now amid widespread pushback.

But the majority of public outcry against the government has been over its effort to radically curb the High Court of Justice’s power. Hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets over the past 11-plus weeks since Justice Minister Yariv Levin introduced the overhaul in early January.

Those protests continued Friday with roughly 200 picketing outside the home of Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman in the central town of Rehovot. Demonstrators called on Silman to resign and “atone” for helping bring down the previous unity government. Silman served as coalition whip and was a member of former prime minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party. She quit the coalition last April, claiming it was harming the country’s Jewish identity. Her resignation deprived the ruling bloc of a majority in what eventually brought about its downfall two months later.

The demonstrations outside Silman’s home on Friday turned heated after supporters of the government showed up and hurled eggs and oranges at the anti-overhaul protesters.

Other demonstrators protested outside the home of Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel in Tel Aviv where they chanted, “Shabbat Shalom to the children of Gila Gamliel whose mother is a fascist.”

The rhetoric was similarly aggressive on the other side of the political spectrum with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son Yair branding President Isaac Herzog as an “extreme leftist” following the latter’s presentation of an alternative proposal for a judicial reform on Wednesday, which was immediately rejected by coalition chiefs.

“This is a left-wing man who cares about his constituents in Hod Hasharon and Ramat Hashron along with the [protesting] anarchists, as opposed to the constituents in Sderot and Kiryat Shmona,” Yair Netanyahu said on a 103FM radio program that he co-hosts, differentiating between wealthy and periphery towns.

Herzog is “part and parcel of the most extreme left,” he claimed.

Earlier Friday, police launched an investigation after graffiti denouncing Levin was spray-painted on an outer wall of the justice minister’s home in Modiin.

The graffiti called Levin “the enemy of the people.”

There was no immediate comment from Levin, who is observing the traditional Jewish mourning period after his father died earlier this week. It was not clear if he was home when the graffiti was spray-painted.

A police statement said officers were working to gather evidence.

Herzog called the graffiti “horrifying” and said he firmly condemned the vandalism.

In this handout photo, graffiti denouncing Justice Minister Yariv Levin as “the enemy of the people” is seen spray-painted on a wall at his home in the central city of Modiin, March 17, 2023. (Israel Police)

The graffiti was spray-painted a day after mass anti-overhaul protests that included the blocking of roads and a day before planned weekly rallies in Tel Aviv and other cities across the country. Police detained 21 people Thursday in several incidents, including two motorists accused of pepper-spraying demonstrators who blocked the road.

It also came as the coalition appeared to be plowing full speed ahead with its divisive legislation to radically restructure the justice system.

For weeks, the opposition has demanded the legislative process of the overhaul be frozen for a set time to allow for talks on a compromise. The coalition has said it is open to negotiations, but without preconditions, adamantly refusing to slow down the legislation which Levin has said he aims to get enacted into law by the end of the month.

Despite over two months of mass protests against the government’s plans and stark warnings from business, military, legal and financial officials in Israel and around the world, the coalition has not paused or slowed down any of its planned legislation.

Herzog has led calls in recent weeks for opposition and coalition lawmakers to sit down for negotiations, urged the coalition to “abandon” the current legislation, and warned Wednesday that Israel is heading toward a “real civil war” amid the bitter national dispute over the overhaul plan.

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