ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 64

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Police detain 44 as all protesters are removed from Tel Aviv’s Ayalon Highway

Water cannons used as hundreds block main thoroughfare in Tel Aviv for hours; hundreds of thousands protest against judicial overhaul nationwide

Israeli police use a water cannon to disperse Israelis blocking a highway during a protest against plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to overhaul the judicial system in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Israeli police use a water cannon to disperse Israelis blocking a highway during a protest against plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to overhaul the judicial system in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Saturday’s events as they unfolded.

Police remove dozens of Palestinians from Temple Mount, suspecting them of planning violence

Israel Police forces enter the Al Aqsa Mosque inside Jerusalem’s flashpoint Temple Mount holy site, removing dozens of Palestinians who intended to spend the night there after the Muslim month of Ramadan began on Thursday.

Israel reportedly believes they planned to violently oppose the entry of Jews into the compound in the morning.

Police sources say Jerusalem has agreed with the Jordanian Waqf authorities that no sleepovers would be held on the Temple Mount.

Nevertheless, the evacuation has sparked clashes and calls on Palestinian social media to “defend” the mosque.

44 arrested tonight in anti-overhaul protests, says legal aid group

A group of lawyers providing legal aid to protesters against the judicial overhaul says 44 demonstrators have been arrested in the last few hours, including 20 who have since been released.

The group says 32 were arrested in Tel Aviv, 9 at Karkur Junction, and 3 in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu meets UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman to discuss Iran, other matters

LONDON — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met yesterday in London with British Home Secretary Suella Braverman, his office says.

The pair talked about Iran, terrorism and expanding security cooperation to other areas, including cyber defense, Netanyahu’s office says.

Braverman tweets that they discussed “our shared security interests” and the countries’ “partnership to keep people safe.”

Police clear all protesters from Ayalon Highway

Police say officers have managed to disperse a crowd that was blocking the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv, amid tonight’s anti-judicial overhaul protests.

Earlier, police said officers detained 28 people amid the protests on the major thoroughfare in Tel Aviv.

Police: 28 detained during attempt to disperse protesters from Ayalon Highway

Police say officers have detained 28 people so far during attempts to disperse a crowd that is blocking the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv, amid tonight’s anti-judicial overhaul protests.

The highway has been blocked for several hours now.

https://twitter.com/itzikshag/status/1639728187365117952?s=20

Coalition whip says Likud members who don’t vote for overhaul will end career in party

Coalition whip Ofir Katz of the ruling Likud party says whoever doesn’t vote in favor of the judicial overhaul, “has ended his career in the Likud.”

Speaking on a Channel 14 talk show, Katz also says Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has made a mistake in calling to halt the overhaul legislation.

“He is wrong and wrong big time. Who do you think you have to talk to? Do you think there is another side waiting for you?” Katz says.

Protesters rally outside hotel in London, as Netanyahu readies to return to Israel

LONDON — Protesters line the streets outside the Savoy Hotel in London as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu readies to depart the UK and return to Israel.

Demonstrators shouting “shame” and “democracy” have been rallying outside the hotel for several hours this afternoon, after protests yesterday outside the hotel as well as outside 10 Downing Street while Netanyahu met with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Police use water cannon to disperse protesters from Ayalon Highway

Police are using a water cannon in an attempt to disperse protesters who are blocking the Ayalon Highway.

Police say they have so far detained 23 people for blocking the highway.

23 detained by police during attempt to disperse protesters from Ayalon Highway

Police say officers have detained 23 people so far during attempts to disperse a crowd that is blocking the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv, amid tonight’s anti-judicial overhaul protests.

Organizers say over 630,000 attended anti-overhaul protests nationwide

Organizers of the anti-overhaul protests claim some 630,000 people took part in nationwide rallies this evening, including nearly 300,000 at the main demonstration in Tel Aviv.

Police detain 12 protesters for blocking Ayalon Highway

Police say officers have detained 12 people during attempts to disperse a crowd that is blocking the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv, amid tonight’s anti-judicial overhaul protests.

Dozens of Israelis protest activist behind judicial legislation in New Jersey

Dozens of demonstrators, mostly Israelis, protest in New Jersey outside an appearance by Moshe Koppel, a key activist in the formulation of the Israeli government’s overhaul legislation.

Koppel is the head of the Kohelet Policy Forum, a think tank deeply involved in the government’s legislative push that helped write the legislation.

The demonstrators gather in drizzling rain outside a synagogue in Englewood, New Jersey, where Koppel was set to appear.

They carry Israeli flags and signs reading “Save Israel’s Democracy,” “No democracy no future,” and chant “Shame on Kohelet.”

Some dress in costumes from “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a motif in the protests in Israel representing threats to women’s rights and a dystopian future.

Over 200 demonstrators rallied in New York City on Wednesday outside an appearance by Koppel at an Orthodox organization, and have protested in New York City and New Jersey against coalition ministers as they visited the area.

The demonstrators will hold another protest tomorrow in New York City’s Washington Square Park.

The weekly Sunday events have grown bigger in recent weeks, drawing several hundred participants.

Anti-overhaul protesters face off against Likud supporters in Or Akiva

Several thousand protesters against the government’s judicial overhaul and a smaller number of its supporters face off against each other in Or Akiva near Hadera at a heated encounter that ends in three arrests over alleged violence.

The event on Khana Asayag Square in Or Akiva, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party won a whopping 47% of the votes last election, ends without injury or damage, police say.

The three detainees shoved anti-overhaul protesters as they were leaving the square, police add. Haim Barda, one of the pro-overhaul rally’s organizers, denies violence by any of the demonstrators on his side.

The arrests follow clashes on the square at a face-off last week, which featured intimidation and assaults, allegedly by pro-overhaul demonstrators.

Dwarfed by the overhaul supporters last week, the anti-overhaul demonstrators on Saturday return with reinforcements that appear to give them a narrow numerical advantage.

But the opposing camp comes prepared with powerful speakers and drum sets that drown out much of the other side’s bullhorn speeches and other sounds.

Protesters from both sides vow to return next week as the fight rages on over the overhaul, whose advocates say restores the balance of power by transferring some of it from the judiciary to the legislature, and whose opponents say risks turning Israel into a dictatorship.

Police detain 3, use water cannons against protesters attempting to block Ayalon Highway

Police say some 30 protesters are blocking the Ayalon Highway northbound, near Yigal Alon Street in Tel Aviv.

In another area, near the Yitzhak Navon Bridge, police are using a water cannon to disperse protesters attempting to block the highway.

Three people are detained at the scene, police say.

Gallant to hold assessment on Huwara shooting with top defense officials

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant will hold a meeting with military chief Herzi Halevi and head of the Shin Bet security agency, Ronen Bar, on the shooting attack in Huwara that left two soldiers wounded.

Gallant’s office says the meeting will include other senior defense officials.

The Beilinson Hospital says the two soldiers are suffering from serious and moderate injuries after being shot in the West Bank town. They are not in life-threatening condition.

 

Likud MKs Edelstein, Bitan back Gallant’s call to halt judicial overhaul

Likud MKs Yuli Edelstein and David Bitan are backing Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s call to halt the legislation of the judicial overhaul.

Edelstein, who is the chair of the Knesset’s powerful Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, says he thanks Gallant for “joining the path I’ve been leading for weeks.”

“The majority of the people want and understand the need for changes in the judicial system, but this must be done with patience, dialogue, and broad discourse in order to reach a broad consensus,” he says in a statement.

David Bitan, chairman of the Knesset Economic Committee, heads a committee hearing, March 16, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Bitan similarly in a tweet says: “As I already said several weeks ago, the legislation should be stopped and immediate negotiations should be started and broad agreements should be reached. I back the words of my friend the defense minister.”

Earlier, it was reported that Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter was calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to pause the overhaul legislation.

Ben Gvir calls to fire Gallant after calls to halt judicial overhaul

Far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir calls on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to fire Defense Minister Gallant over his calls to halt the judicial overhaul.

“I call on the prime minister to fire Gallant, who came in with the votes of the right, but surrendered to the pressure of those who threatened to refuse [to serve in the military], and tries to put a stop to the important reform,” Ben Gvir says in a statement.

Lapid praises Gallant’s ‘brave’ speech calling to halt judicial overhaul

Opposition chief Yair Lapid responds to Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s speech tonight, in which he called to halt the judicial overhaul.

“Defense Minister Gallant is taking a brave and vital step tonight for the security of the State of Israel. The coup seriously harms national security and it is his role and responsibility to stop the dangerous deterioration,” Lapid says in a statement.

“This is the moment of truth. I call on the government: Stop everything, do not pass the change in the committee for the appointment of judges and the Deri law this week, and come and hold talks at the president’s residence,” he adds.

Defense Minister Gallant calls to halt judicial overhaul legislation

In a televised speech, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant calls to halt the judicial overhaul legislation in order to hold talks with its opponents.

“Israel’s security is my life’s goal. Even now, I am willing to take a risk and pay a price. The threats around us are immense, near and far,” he says.

Gallant says that in recent weeks he has been speaking to military officials regarding the overhaul plans. “I’m worried about what I’m hearing,” he says.

“I have never encountered the intensity of anger and pain as I have seen now. The rift in society penetrates into the army and this is an immediate and tangible danger to the security of the state. I will not give my hand to this,” Gallant continues.

“We need a change in the judiciary, but major changes must be done with dialogue,” he says.

“The legislative process must be stopped,” Gallant adds.

195,000 estimated at main anti-judicial overhaul rally in Tel Aviv

Channel 12 news reports that there are an estimated 195,000 people gathered at the main protest tonight, at Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv.

Opponents of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government have been taking to the streets for 12 straight weeks to protest Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s proposals to shake up the judiciary by severely curbing the High Court of Justice’s judicial review powers and cementing political control over the appointment of judges.

Likud minister Dichter said to ask Netanyahu to stop overhaul legislation for a few weeks

Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Likud MKs, and has asked them to stop the judicial overhaul bills until after Independence Day, multiple Hebrew-language media reports say.

Israel’s Independence Day will be held on April 26.

“There will be no way back,” Dichter is quoted as saying by Channel 12 news.

Dichter, who is a former director of the Shin Bet security agency, joins Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who is reported to have told Netanyahu about the dangers the judicial overhaul will cause to the military.

Yuval Noah Harari calls on civil servants and military to obey courts, not government

Speaking at the main rally against the judicial overhaul in Tel Aviv, Historian Yuval Noah Harari says civil servants and military forces must obey the courts and not the government, should Israel end up in a constitutional crisis.

Addressing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Harari says: “We know you are responsible for all that is happening. You are not an emissary. You are definitely not an angel. After 2,000 years, we still remember pharaoh. And we will remember you. There’ll be no streets, squares or airports named after you. But we will tell the story of the man who tried to enslave us and failed.”

“You are surrounded by people with no backbone. But we have backbones…We will not be slaves. Next year we will be free people,” he adds.

Speaking at the same rally, Shikma Bressler, a world-renowned physicist and protest leader says the government’s plan to take control of the committee to choose judges, “is the first domino on the path to dictatorship.”

Police detain 4 for blocking northern highway, lighting flares

Police say hundreds of protesters are blocking the Karkur Junction on the Route 65 highway in northern Israel, amid rallies against the judicial overhaul.

According to police, four people have been detained for disorderly conduct, including hurling flares.

Police say officers are attempting to clear the junction.

125,000 estimated at main anti-judicial overhaul rally in Tel Aviv

Channel 12 news reports that there are an estimated 125,000 people gathered at the main protest tonight, at Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv.

Opponents of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government have been taking to the streets for 12 straight weeks to protest Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s proposals to shake up the judiciary by severely curbing the High Court of Justice’s judicial review powers and cementing political control over the appointment of judges.

Defense Minister Gallant to issue ‘special statement’ at 8:40 p.m.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant will issue a “special statement” at 8:40 p.m., his office says in a brief statement.

There are no further details on the topic of the statement, but it comes days after Gallant was set to hold a televised press conference in which he was widely reported to be planning to call for an immediate halt to the coalition’s bid to overhaul the judiciary.

The Thursday statement was postponed at the request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

IDF says it is closing roads around Nablus amid manhunt for Huwara gunman

The Israel Defense Forces says it has launched a manhunt for a gunman who wounded two Israelis in the West Bank town of Huwara earlier.

According to the IDF, the drive-by attack left two Israelis hurt. They were both taken to a hospital for further treatment.

The IDF says it is closing roads in the Nablus area amid the manhunt.

Two Israelis said wounded in shooting attack in West Bank town of Huwara

Two Israelis are wounded in a suspected drive-by shooting attack in the West Bank town of Huwara, local officials and the military says.

Local officials say medics are treating two people at the scene. Their conditions are not immediately known.

The Israel Defense Forces says it has received a report about the drive-by shooting, but does not immediately provide further details.

Protesters in Tel Aviv begin to march toward Kaplan Street for massive anti-judicial overhaul rally

Protesters are beginning to hold a march in Tel Aviv from Hambina Square to Kaplan Street, where a main rally against the judicial overhaul will take place.

Previous weeks have seen over 150,000 people participate in the rally in Tel Aviv.

Opponents of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government have been taking to the streets for 12 straight weeks to protest Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s proposals to shake up the judiciary by severely curbing the High Court of Justice’s judicial review powers and cementing political control over the appointment of judges.

Police shutter roads in Tel Aviv as 12th week of rallies against legal overhaul begin

Police close main roads in central Tel Aviv ahead of major anti-government rallies that will be held in the coastal city this evening.

Tens of thousands of people are expected at the main protest on Kaplan Street.

Several more large demonstrations are anticipated in other cities around the country, including Jerusalem, Haifa, Herzliya and Beersheba. Organizers say there will be protests at 150 locations across the country.

Opponents of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government have been taking to the streets for 12 straight weeks to protest Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s proposals to shake up the judiciary by severely curbing the High Court of Justice’s judicial review powers and cementing political control over the appointment of judges.

Anti-overhaul protesters gather outside Netanyahu’s hotel in London

Around 20 protesters gather outside a hotel in London where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is staying over the weekend.

“The whole world knows that Bibi is a criminal,” the protesters chant.

 

Lapid accuses Netanyahu of ‘hypocrisy’ after premier seen eating in non-kosher restaurant

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is spotted eating at a non-kosher restaurant during his weekend trip to London.

In a video published by a Channel 13 journalist, Netanyahu and his wife Sara Netanyahu can be seen eating at Gordon Ramsey’s River Restaurant at the Savoy Hotel in the British capital.

Responding to the clip, opposition leader Yair Lapid tweets: “There is no limit to Netanyahu’s hypocrisy: He eats in a non-kosher restaurant and then runs home to vote for the hametz law.”

Lapid is referring to a controversial bill that would allow hospital directors to ban leavened bread from their institutions during Passover.

Netanyahu has in the past been accused by ultra-Orthodox media of allegedly eating non-kosher food, but has denied the claims.

Protest organizers gear up for demonstrations at 150 locations across country

Organizers of the protests against the government’s judicial overhaul say tonight’s demonstrations will be held at 150 locations across the country, and for the first time, in the Likud strongholds of Ramla and Beit Shean.

They say the protests are “a historic evening at the beginning of the fateful week for the State of Israel and the fate of the Declaration of Independence.”

“[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s speech of lies proved that he is determined to fight the values ​​of the Declaration of Independence, determined to dismantle the people’s army and the Israeli economy,” the organizers say, referring to a Thursday night televised speech where Netanyahu vowed to continue the overhaul legislation.

“The fate of the country now lies before Israelis who will take to the streets and decide the intention to turn Israel into a dictatorship,” the protest organizers add.

The main rally will begin with a 6:30 p.m. march from Kikar Dizengoff to the central demonstration on Tel Aviv’s Kaplan Street.

Over 1,000 protest outside Gallant’s home

Over 1,000 demonstrators, led by a group representing reservist soldiers, are protesting outside Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s home in Moshav Amikam in northern Israel.

“Gallant, who is silent out of fear, who realizes that he is responsible for the disintegration of the people’s army, who knows that the IDF soldiers will be charged in The Hague, who lends a hand to the dictatorship,” the Brothers in Arms protest group says.

Increasingly, reservists — who are a key part of the army’s routine activities, including in top units — have warned they will not be able to serve in an undemocratic Israel, which they charge the country will become under the government’s judicial overhaul plan.

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