The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they occurred.
Hundreds of protesters block off the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv for at least the third time today, after marching down Kaplan Street from Habima Square.
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) March 16, 2023
Throughout the day police repeatedly clashed with anti-government demonstrators who sought to block the main thoroughfare, snarling traffic in the area.
A few hundred protesters against the judicial overhaul head in the direction of Tel Aviv’s Ayalon Highway — which has already been blocked twice today by demonstrators and cleared by police.
The crowd chants “de-mo-cracy” as they follow a group of drummers. The demonstrators briefly block traffic on the main thoroughfare of Kaplan Street as they move along the road which intersects with exit ramps for the highway.
On the cover of its latest edition, British magazine The Economist features a portrait of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as part of a lead editorial warning against the government’s far-reaching judicial overhaul plans.
“Will Bibi break Israel?” the headline reads, using Netanyahu’s nickname.
Last month, the weekly published a cartoon ridiculing the overhaul that portrayed Netanyahu taking a bat to “judicial independence.”
At the end of Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Berlin, the prime minister meets with almost 30 executives from leading German defense companies.
According to the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu shares with the businesspeople lessons from his experience, and discusses possibilities for cooperation between the defense industries in the two countries.
The two countries are discussing Germany’s desire to purchase Israel’s Arrow 3 anti-ballistic missile system, which came up in Netanyahu’s meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Months after Russia invaded Ukraine, Germany announced a 100 billion euro rearmament plan.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issues further criticism of President Isaac Herzog’s alternative judicial reform proposal, denouncing it as “completely one-sided.”
“We received a mandate from the voter,” he says in a video statement from Berlin, referring to his government’s plans for overhauling the judiciary, while insisting he remains open to dialogue.
Standing alongside four other opposition party chiefs, Labor leader Merav Michaeli accuses the coalition of pushing Israel toward “civil war” through their determination to controversially overhaul the judiciary.
“On the one hand, they make threats about civil war and, on the other hand, push for such a war,” she says, accusing the coalition of “inciting, lying, legislating unilaterally and destructively and inciting us against each other.
“And these are not the citizens who do it, they do it — politicians who care solely for themselves, for their seat, for their corruption, for which they are willing to sacrifice all of us.”
“Stop threatening, and just stop taking us there,” Michaeli says, adding that “this coup is good only for those in power, those who will suffer from it are first and foremost are citizens, from the right and the left.”
Ra’am party leader Mansour Abbas says the judicial system is the “primary protection” for Israel’s Arab minority and that its independence cannot be harmed.
“Arab society is in the minority and to this point, the primary protection for this society has been the judicial system. And thus a reform that hurts the judicial system’s independence, its ability to balance the bulldozing of the Knesset and government, will definitely hurt the standing and rights, and the future of Arab society,” the Islamist party chief says, in Abbas’s most public Hebrew-language remarks on the judicial overhaul.
Abbas, who in 2021 made Ra’am the first independent Arab party to join an Israeli coalition, asks the right-religious government to “sit around a discussion table on the basis of the president’s framework, which is a good and accepted base that’s possible to start from.”
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir sends a letter to fellow coalition leaders calling to fire Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, claiming that she’s “serving as the de facto opposition leader.”
Ben Gvir rails at Baharav-Miara for objecting to various measures put forward by the right-religious government, accusing her of “usually not even bothering to speak with ministers” beforehand and not behaving similarly during the previous government.
“I am aware of the legal difficulty in firing her, but the damage the attorney general is causing everyday she remains in her role is immeasurable,” charges Ben Gvir, who heads the far-right Otzma Yehudit party.
MK Avigdor Liberman, head of the right-wing secularist Yisrael Beytenu party, expresses concern that religion is gaining too much sway in Israel during the joint press conference with other opposition chiefs.
“If we do not separate religion and state, we will not have a state,” says the longtime critic of the ultra-Orthodox’s influence on the state.
“Today it is clear that the main engine for all this crazy legislation, the most rigid, the most extreme element that is not ready for any compromise are the Shas and United Torah Judaism parties,” Liberman adds, singling out the Knesset’s two ultra-Orthodox factions.
“Their belligerent conduct in the Knesset leads to damage to the State of Israel, the IDF, and Judaism.”
UTJ in particular has put pressure on the coalition to pass a mechanism to override Supreme Court rulings, as part of a years-long battle to anchor in law blanket military exemptions for Torah study.
National Unity party leader Benny Gantz says that President Isaac Herzog’s judicial reform proposal “is not the ideal framework, but it is a realistic framework,” adding that five of the opposition’s six parties have decided to stand behind it.
The majority Arab Hadash-Ta’al party, which has largely stayed out of the judicial overhaul fray, was not a part of the opposition press conference.
Gantz calls on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “show responsibility” and engage in dialogue based on the framework, which the premier and fellow government leaders have already resoundingly rejected.
A week away from Ramadan and days after a suspected Lebanese terrorist infiltrated Israel and carried out an explosive attack, Gantz says that Israel’s security concerns require unity.
“We can’t show weakness,” he says, adding that it’s time for Israel to circle the wagons.
Gantz adds that if the reform were to pass, Israel would no longer be a liberal democracy and “every citizen’s” civil rights and liberties would be in danger.
“It is a recipe for destroying all of the Zionist infrastructure,” he adds.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid slams the coalition for rejecting President Isaac Herzog’s framework for judicial reform, saying that his Yesh Atid party is embracing the proposal to stave off “civil war.”
“The framework presented yesterday by the president isn’t perfect. It isn’t what we wanted, but it is a fair compromise that allows us to live here together,” says Lapid in a special press conference alongside four other opposition party leaders. “The alternative is serious harm to our economy and our national security, and an angry, confused society torn to pieces.”
Lapid says “it took the government 17 minutes to announce they reject the framework,” and that “they told the president he too could go to hell” before “even bother[ing] to study it.”
Coalition members swiftly came out against President Isaac Herzog’s proposal, with Prime Minister Netanyahu saying that it will not let the government achieve its goal of retooling power divisions between politicians and the judiciary.
Amid further protests across Israel today, Lapid says that his Yesh Atid party “accept[s] the president’s framework because there will only be losers in a civil war,” echoing warnings by Herzog and others over political violence linked to the polarizing judicial overhaul debate.
Despite Netanyahu’s dismissal of Herzog’s framework, Lapid makes a plea to other members of the premier’s Likud party, saying “they know what’s at stake.”
“They know that in the future, every Israeli citizen will ask themselves: where was I in the winter of 2023? Was I silent when I saw my country being driven off a cliff?” the opposition leader adds.
US Senators from both sides of the aisle are concerned about the security implications of the government’s judicial overhaul, a senior IDF reservist says after a series of meetings in Washington, DC.
“Our angle is important to them and that’s the main reason we could meet with people from both sides,” says Col. (Res.) Joab Rosenberg, former deputy head analyst for IDF intelligence, who met with Senators for about five hours this week, along with Col. (Res.) Ophir Bear, who piloted F-16 fighter jets for 27 years, and Brig. Gen. (Res.) Roy Riftin, former chief of IDF artillery.
“It’s not about being progressive or conservative or anything. It’s about Israel and I think they all care about Israel,” Rosenberg says. “All of them were very sympathetic to our concerns and worries. They wanted to learn more details about our specific angle on national security and the IDF.”
Ending a busy but fruitful day in Senate, describing our deep concern of Israel’s new anti democratic legislation. The self coup should not go through, it threatens Israel’s National Security. Thanks to Senator Blumenthal and to many others who listened pic.twitter.com/YwRFs9AMXv
— Joab Rosenberg (@JoabRosenberg) March 15, 2023
The veterans expressed their fears about the new government’s effects on national security and the IDF, including the chain of command, troops’ morale, reservists boycotting service, and far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s position in the defense ministry.
The group met with Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal and other elected officials who prefer to remain anonymous for political reasons, Rosenberg says.
The delegation visited the US this week to further pressure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against his government’s legislative blitz. In addition to meeting with Congress members, the veterans spoke with US media and Jewish community members.
BERLIN — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he’s paying attention to the protests against the judicial overhaul in Israel.
“I am attentive to what is happening among the people,” he tells Israeli journalists, “but we have to bring something that matches the mandate we received, and we will do this responsibly.”
Netanyahu also calls President Isaac Herzog’s judicial reform proposal “a major missed opportunity.”
“What was brought in front of the president from the coalition regarding the appointment of judges included a two-stage framework – an immediate fix to some extent and then balance afterwards,” he continues. “The president heard these things, and brushed them aside, unfortunately.”
Regarding his meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Netanyahu says “the chancellor did not place any conditions on relations with Israel as a result of the judicial changes, especially not anything having to do with security ties.”
A senior official traveling with Netanyahu says that the Israelis were expecting a confrontation in the meeting with Scholz, but it never came, with Netanyahu bringing up the fight over the judicial shakeup.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s far-right Otzma Yehudit announces it has agreed to further shelve a controversial proposal to grant Israeli security forces immunity from prosecution, following warnings the measure could expose troops to foreign prosecution and have a severely negative impact on the relations between law enforcement and the public.
In a statement, Otzma Yehudit says it reached a deal with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party to not advance the bill next week and instead have all coalition parties bring in an expert to present a legal opinion on the matter.
Additionally, Otzma Yehudit will put forward a bill to set a minimum sentence of three years for those found guilty of running criminal protection rackets, with a maximum sentence of 10 years.
Hundreds of reserve officers and soldiers from the Military Intelligence’s Special Operations Division and cyber warfare units say they will stop showing up for volunteer duty as of Sunday, to protest the government’s plans for overhauling the judiciary.
“The pistol is pressed harm to the head of democracy and the trigger will soon be pulled,” the protest organizers say in a statement. “We don’t have a contract with a dictator. We’ll be happy to resume volunteering when democracy is ensured.”
TRIPOLI, Libya — More than two tons of natural uranium reported missing by the UN’s nuclear watchdog in war-scarred Libya have been found, a general in the country’s east says.
General Khaled al-Mahjoub, commander of eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar’s communications division, says the containers of uranium had been recovered “barely five kilometers” (three miles) from where they had been stored in southern Libya, and after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported their disappearance earlier today.
ISTANBUL — Turkish Jewish leaders say they are taking action after students at Istanbul’s Üsküdar American Academy reportedly performed the Nazi salute during a soccer game against Istanbul’s sole Jewish day school.
The students from the American school, considered one of Istanbul’s most elite, performed the gesture at the game on Tuesday as a taunt following goals by the Ulus Jewish School team, according to reports on Twitter and in Avlaremoz, a Turkish Jewish media outlet.
Turkey’s official Jewish communal organization condemned the incident. The Jewish organization says that it’s in contact with the American school’s board and that “necessary initiatives will be taken,” though it doesn’t specify what those initiatives might be.
The American school is also investigating what unfolded at the game, according to a statement it issued.
“We would like to emphasize that we stand against all kinds of discrimination in accordance with our institutional and educational philosophy.” the statement says. “We have urgently contacted the school officials of Ulus Private Jewish High School, conveyed our regrets and initiated the necessary investigation.”
The incident has sent shockwaves through Istanbul’s Jewish community, which includes families with connections to both schools.
“As a Üsküdar American High School graduate, I do not want to believe this behavior of my school’s students towards the students of my son’s school.” one Jewish graduate, Roki Levent, writes on Twitter. “If it is true, I condemn it and I am deeply saddened to see my school come to this.”
Former Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman expresses concern that the government’s plans for overhauling the judicial system could lead to severe fallout in the security agency.
“The big concern is that if these laws pass, Israel is on the verge of dictatorship,” he says in an interview with Channel 12’s investigative news program “Uvda” that is due to be aired in full this evening.
“And when Israel is on the verge of dictatorship, we may see organizations and systems disintegrate from within,” Argaman adds.
He warns that members of the Shin Bet and other security agencies who serve on a voluntary basis could stop doing so.
PARIS — Amnesty International accuses Iran of subjecting children arrested in a crackdown on women-led protests to “horrific” abuse including beatings, electric shocks, and rape.
The London-based human rights group says it estimates that thousands of children have been arrested in the crackdown, with minors as young as 12 suffering treatment equating to torture.
Protests erupted in Iran in September over the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, following her arrest for an alleged violation of Iran’s mandatory dress code for women.
The authorities have responded with a crackdown that has seen, according to rights groups based outside Iran, thousands arrested and hundreds killed by security forces.
Amnesty says security forces have been committing acts of torture against detained children, “including beatings, flogging, electric shocks, rape and other sexual violence” against child protesters as young as 12 to quell their involvement in the protests.
While authorities have given no clear breakdown on those detained, Amnesty says it estimates that “thousands of children could have been among those swept up in the wave of arrests.”
The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry says the death toll of the Israeli raid in the West Bank city of Jenin rises to four.
Palestinian media outlets identify the slain men as Yusuf Shreim, 29, a member of the military wing of the Hamas terror group, and Nidal Khazem, 28, a member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
الشهيدان يوسف شريم من كتائب القسام ونضال خازم من سرايا القدس اللذين ارتقيا في جنين قبل قليل. pic.twitter.com/w8kt5UcPUs
— فلسطين الآن (@paltimes2015) March 16, 2023
The third Palestinian was named by the PA health ministry as 16-year-old Omar Awadin. The extent of his involvement in the clashes was not immediately clear.
The fourth Palestinian has not yet been identified, the ministry says.
At least 20 others are hurt, four seriously, according to the ministry.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The United Arab Emirates’ national security adviser holds a meeting in Abu Dhabi with his Iranian counterpart, whose visit to the UAE comes days after a surprise rapprochement between Tehran and Riyadh.
Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a brother of the UAE’s president, received Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, the official WAM news agency says.
The two officials discussed “bilateral relations and opportunities to advance them in a way that serves the mutual interests of the two countries,” WAM says, without elaborating.
Sheikh Tahnoun previously met Shamkhani on a visit to Iran in 2021, the first trip of its kind since relations between the two countries were downgraded in 2016.
Shamkhani called his UAE visit “a meaningful beginning for the two countries to enter a new stage of political, economic and security relations,” Iran’s state news agency IRNA says.
His visit comes after Iran and Saudi Arabia announced a Chinese-brokered deal on Friday to end a seven-year rupture in diplomatic ties.
Shamkhani had traveled to Beijing for intensive talks with his Saudi counterpart ahead of the shock announcement.
“We should try to increase the security, peace and well-being of the people of the region through dialogue and interaction… while preventing foreigners from playing a non-constructive role,” Shamkhani said during today’s meeting with Sheikh Tahnoun, IRNA reports.
BERLIN — In response to a question from The Times of Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls for the opposition to sit down and talk in order to reach as broad a consensus as possible for judicial reform.
He charges that opposition leaders have not shown a desire for compromise, suggesting their real goal is chaos and the collapse of the government rather than a real solution.
He also says he is aware that the proposed override clause must be done carefully, or else it could create what he describes as a new imbalance. “If we do that, it’s just as bad.”
“Democracy is not majority rule, but it’s also the security of those who are minorities and who might always remain minorities,” cautions Scholz, in response to a question.
“What is democracy? The balance between the will of the majority and the rights of the individual,” counters Netanyahu, saying there must be the proper balance between branches of government for that to happen.
He argues individual rights will be better protected after the changes, as will Israel’s economy.
Netanyahu says he will return to Israel, consult his advisers, and decide how to move forward, likely without a partner from the opposition.
Palestinian media reports say Israeli forces have shot dead three people in the West Bank city of Jenin, including at least two members of armed groups.
The Israel Defense Forces says troops are operating in the Jenin refugee camp, but does not immediately provide further details.
Graphic footage from the scene shows one of the men shot dead outside a store in the city.
The Palestinian Authority health ministry confirms three people have been killed.
Palestinian media outlets say one of the men is a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the second of the military wing of Hamas. The affiliation of the third man is unclear.
— Newpress | نيو برس (@NewpressPs) March 16, 2023
BERLIN — At their joint press conference after meeting, Chancellor Olaf Scholz alongside Benjamin Netanyahu expresses concern over the Israeli government’s judicial overhaul efforts, urging him to consider President Herzog’s proposal.
“Independence of the judiciary is a prime asset,” he says.
“We are monitoring this debate very closely,” he adds, urging a broad consensus.
Scholz expresses concern over rising violence in the West Bank, saying it must be dealt with by the army, “not with unbridled vigilante justice.”
The German leader also says Iran must not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons, and therefore “a diplomatic solution is our top priority.”
In his own remarks, Netanyahu says that “Israel will do what Israel needs to do” to defend itself against Iranian designs.
He adds that those who send terrorists “will pay a heavy price.”
Responding to Scholz, Netanyahu says, “I want to assure you, Israel is a liberal democracy, and will remain a liberal democracy.”
He also defends his government’s proposals for upending the judicial system, denying they will undercut the independence of the courts, which he says too many people feel are all powerful. In the end, he says, Israel will have the same balance as Germany and other Western democracies.
In a first, Israel has approved defense export licenses for the sale of anti-drone systems to Ukraine, the Walla news site reports, to help protect against Russian attacks using unnamed Iranian aircraft.
Citing unnamed Israeli and Ukrainian officials, the report says the licenses were granted to Elbit and Rafael, with a Ukrainian delegation recently visiting Israel for a presentation of the system, which can bring down drones by interfering with the frequencies.
No deal has yet been signed.
“What we mostly need at the moment is defense systems against ballistic missiles. There’s a gap we’re unable to bridge,” a Ukrainian official told the news site, noting his country’s improved success rate in bringing down drones.
Israeli officials quoted in the report denied the move marked a change in policy, noting the systems are defensive and wouldn’t harm Russian soldiers. One of the officials said a reason for supplying the systems was to see how they fare against Iranian drones.
Opposition leaders announce they will give a statement to the press at 7 p.m. in Tel Aviv.
The event will be attended by the leaders of the Yesh Atid, National Unity, Yisrael Beytenu and Ra’am parties, all of whom were part of the last government. The Hadash-Ta’al alliance, which is not aligned with any bloc, will be absent.
An opposition statement doesn’t say what the officials will discuss, but it comes as National Unity leader Benny Gantz again calls on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to adopt President Isaac Herzog’s judicial reform proposal as a basis for talks, after the coalition rejected it yesterday.
BERLIN — The night before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Berlin’s Platform 17 memorial, Israel Studies professor Arie Dubnov and Talmud professor Shai Secunda, along with Jewish and non-Jewish Berliners, spread flowers with biblical messages about democracy and justice on the platform, to protest the Israeli government’s planned judicial overhaul.
While they were placing the English and Hebrew verses around the platform, a German police officer drove up to make sure they weren’t spreading antisemitic messages, according to Dubnov.
The flowers and messages were removed from the platform before Netanyahu’s visit.
A little "gift" we made, in advance of Bibi's visit today to the Gleis 17 monument at Grunewald station – Flowers with quotes about justice, democracy, etc. My contribution: Deut 17:18.
שֹׁפְטִים וְשֹׁטְרִים תִּתֶּן־לְךָ בְּכׇל־שְׁעָרֶיךָ וְשָׁפְטוּ אֶת־הָעָם מִשְׁפַּט־צֶדֶק׃ pic.twitter.com/0DwLAK9FMR
— Shai Secunda (@shaisecunda) March 16, 2023
Police say Tel Aviv’s Ayalon Highway has been reopened to traffic, after officers clear demonstrators from the road.
A police statement says officers arrested 10 demonstrators.
BERLIN — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu begins his meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin.
Netanyahu is joined by his Chief of Staff Tzachi Braverman, National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi, and Ambassador to Germany Ron Prosor.
Two people are killed and several others injured after scaffolding collapses at a construction site in Ramat Gan.
According to police, one of those hurt is in serious condition and two are in moderate condition, all three of whom were taken to hospital. Two others remain trapped.
Police say they are probing the matter.
Mounted officers begin to corral protesters who broke on Tel Aviv’s Ayalon Highway, as traffic stands still behind them.
Protesters chant “we’re not afraid” and “democracy.”
The police open a lane to let cars pass by protesters, after being trapped for over half an hour.
As a protester is taken into custody, the crowd rushes toward police.
Police also get into a pushing match with independent journalist and activist Orly Barlev, who films the officers trying to remove a woman seated in the middle of the highway.
Former premier Ehud Olmert calls for world leaders friendly to Israel to boycott Prime Minister Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom he assails over the government’s plans for overhauling the judiciary.
Speaking with Channel 12 news, Olmert says Netanyahu’s right-religious coalition should have accepted the alternative proposal put forward last night by President Isaac Herzog, slamming lawmakers for their criticism of the plan.
“The rudeness, the nastiness, the insults,” he tells the network. “The lack of boundaries will come back to strike those who practice this style.”
Olmert adds that he doesn’t believe Netanyahu is really in charge of the country, referring to reports that the premier was willing to accept Herzog’s framework, but was pressured to reject it by Justice Minister Yariv Levin.
“For a period of time he hasn’t been managing. In my opinion he’s in the advanced stages of a nervous breakdown, of a very deep emotional and mental crisis,” alleges Olmert, who lost a defamation suit last year for calling Netanyahu, his wife and eldest son “irreparably” mentally ill.
Olmert adds: “All prime ministers who define themselves as friends of Israel need to come out against the government. The government is anti-Israel.”
Police are again clearing the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv after dozens of protesters break through barriers and shut the road for the second time today.
Mounted police are on the highway facing off with the demonstrators.
Police say they are “clearing the disturbance.”
איילון דרום, תמונת מצב
שעה 13:00 pic.twitter.com/9NBDKKcgzn
— Bar Peleg (@bar_peleg) March 16, 2023
Demonstrators are singing and dancing and waving flags.
Alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the Platform 17 memorial in Berlin’s Grunewald train station, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stresses the need to “obstruct evil designs early on.”
Saying that Israel faces threats to its existence today, Netanyahu adds that “we have learned that the Jewish people must have the capability to defend ourselves by ourselves.”
Netanyahu says he welcomes the help of friends in this goal and calls the Israel-German relationship “a trusted alliance.”
Netanyahu has said his talks in Berlin would focus on the threat from Iran.
Scholz, speaking in German at the station from which tens of thousands of Jews were deported to ghettos and concentration camps, says that protecting Israel’s security is one of the reasons for Germany’s existence.
An American immigrant to Israel and her Holocaust survivor husband are among the thousands of protesters blocking Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv.
Holding a sign saying “I didn’t make aliyah for this shit,” Julie Gray says she came to Israel looking to be part of the Zionist project and to live a life aligned with her values but feels like the government’s push to consolidate power over the judiciary is threatening that vision.
“When I came to Israel 11 years ago, I came because I believe in this country, its history, and what it embodies,” she says.
“It’s shocking to me the fascist turn this country is taking, on the heels of what happened in America,” say says, adding that “the Jewish state is cannibalizing itself.”
Her octogenarian husband, Gidon Lev, a Holocaust survivor, says that he lived through fascism and is deeply concerned about Israel’s current direction.
While Lev stopped short of saying that Israel’s situation amounts to fascism, he says that it is “dangerous for our existence as a free and democratic state.”
Police say they have arrested two protesters in Haifa.
One protester is detained for interfering with police efforts to maintain order, while the second is suspected of attacking a fellow protester, police say.
“The police will allow freedom of expression and protest on the condition that it does not include disturbances and incidents of violence contrary to the law and these will be dealt with in full severity,” police say.
Hundreds of protesters block Tel Aviv’s Hashmonaim Street, stopping traffic and public transportation to protest the government’s plan to overhaul Israel’s judiciary.
“We want democracy to continue,” says Aryeh Schulman, 46, who came down to the street from his office nearby.
Shulman says that although he and fellow protesters will “continue doing all that we can” to stop the coalition’s effort to upend judicial power, he is considering leaving Israel if it passes.
Several protesters say that they fear that eroding democracy is a first step toward deep, social and security change in Israel.
“It’s even worse than we think,” says Lior Alon, 59, who came to the protest with his adult son.
“Regime change is the first step. Next will come religious laws making this a theocracy. Then the fascists will run free and conquer Arab villages,” he says, holding tight onto an Israeli flag.
“It’ll be like Hungary, we can’t even imagine,” interjects his son Assaf.
Police disperse protesters who briefly block the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv near the Azrieli center.
Hundreds of protesters, many waving Israeli flags, jumped over barricades to get on the highway.
They were pulled away by police, some of them mounted on horses.
The traffic police say the road is now completely open.
— amit melamed (@amitmel1) March 16, 2023
Protesters kick off a third “day of disruption” since the crisis began, with roads blocked by demonstrators.
“The elected government is doing a legislative blitz that aims to give absolute power to the executive. And absolute power to the executive with no checks and balances is simply a dictatorship. And this is what we’re fighting against,” said Shlomit Tassa, a protester in Tel Aviv, waving an Israeli flag.
An angry motorist attacks demonstrators who are blocking roads in Tel Aviv with pepper spray.
Video from the scene shows the man exiting his vehicle and spraying one of the demonstrators in his face.
“We blocked the road like every week, and the driver just accelerated in our direction. He got out of the car and started spraying us with pepper spray. He sprayed everyone who was near the car randomly,” one of the people hit tells Channel 12 news.
The incident occurs near Tel Aviv’s Savidor Central railway station.
אירוע תקיפה נוסף, בדרך נמיר. דור שהיה במקום סיפר ״הצעדה המשיכה לכיוון גשר יעקב דורי בחור ברכב שלא זרם לו העניין התקדם לכיוון המפגינים וניסה לדרוס. חסמו אותו ומנעו ממנו להתקדם אז הוא בתגובה יצא מהרכב וריסס גז פלפל. הזמנו משטרה שלקח לה 15 דק להגיע, ואחרי דין ודברים עיכבו 3 אנשים״ pic.twitter.com/rh8zSrzC4Y
— Bar Peleg (@bar_peleg) March 16, 2023
Police say they detained the driver and a passenger in his vehicle. The also detain one of the protesters, who the driver says attacked him.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid condemns rising violence against protesters and blames the government.
“The violence against protesters this morning is growing. Government of Israel — the responsibility is on you,” he tweets after at least one incident in which protesters were attacked with pepper spray.
“Stop inciting against the protesters, they are wonderful Israeli protesters and you are responsible for their safety,” Lapid says.
As The Times of Israel’s political correspondent, I spend my days in the Knesset trenches, speaking with politicians and advisers to understand their plans, goals and motivations.
I'm proud of our coverage of this government's plans to overhaul the judiciary, including the political and social discontent that underpins the proposed changes and the intense public backlash against the shakeup.
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