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

IDF general revokes order barring Israelis from illegal Homesh outpost

People walk by the water tower on the ruins of Homesh, August 27, 2019. (Hillel Meir/Flash90)
People walk by the water tower on the ruins of Homesh, August 27, 2019. (Hillel Meir/Flash90)

The chief of the military’s Central Command signs off on an order allowing Israelis to enter an area in the northern West Bank where the illegal outpost of Homesh was established, paving the way for a legal settlement to be built there.

In March, lawmakers had okayed a rollback of legislation that ordered the evacuation of four northern West Bank settlements concurrent with Israel’s pullout from the Gaza Strip in 2005. The law repeals clauses of the Disengagement Law that banned Israelis from the area where the settlements of Homesh, Ganim, Kadim and Sa-Nur once stood.

Settlers have attempted numerous times to reestablish a yeshiva at the Homesh site illegally, with authorities having to demolish the structures.

Even after the repeal, an Israel Defense Forces order prevented Israelis from entering the areas.

Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox, head of the IDF Central Command, has now signed an order allowing Israelis to enter the Homesh area, and declaring it as part of the Samaria Regional Council.

The order is shared on social media by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who is also a junior minister in the Defense Ministry, which gives him broad authority over civilian issues in the West Bank.

“We promised to authorize the continued Torah study at the yeshiva in Homesh, and we are fulfilling that,” Smotrich says on Twitter.

The Yesh Din right group, meanwhile, slams the order, saying the illegal outpost is built on private Palestinian land belonging to residents of the nearby village of Burqa.

“The entry of Israelis into the area is another tool to dispossess the residents of their lands. The process of authorizing the outpost is a reward and incentive for criminals and a violation of international law,” Yesh Din says.

IDF detains five suspects attempting to smuggle gun from West Bank into Israel

The Israel Defense Forces says troops foiled an attempt to smuggle an assault rifle from the West Bank into Israel earlier today.

Soldiers operating in the Hebron area identified five suspects attempting to cross the West Bank security barrier, the military says.

“After inspecting the suspects, an M16 rifle located in one of their bags was confiscated,” the IDF adds.

The suspects are handed over to the Shin Bet security agency for further questioning.

Ex-budgets chief slams looming state budget, says government advancing ‘extremist agenda’

Budget director Shaul Meridor attends a press conference with at the Finance Ministry office in Jerusalem, September 23, 2019. (Flash90)
Budget director Shaul Meridor attends a press conference with at the Finance Ministry office in Jerusalem, September 23, 2019. (Flash90)

Shaul Meridor, who headed the Finance Ministry’s Budgets Department from 2017 until 2020, when he resigned in protest of the Likud government’s policies, takes aim at the current looming state budget, accusing it of advancing an “extremist agenda” and ignoring professionals’ opinions and warnings.

“The government is passing a budget that clearly reflects its priorities — yeshivas are favored over employment, ignorance and food stamps are favored over education, gas is subsidized instead of dealing with the cost of living,” he says at the main anti-overhaul protest on Tel Aviv’s Kaplan Street.

He says that even if the government “tramples over another sacred value or transfers more of the money we pay to destroy Israel’s economy,” the protesters “will be here to fix the destruction they will leave.”

Organizers claim 135,000 at main anti-overhaul protest in Tel Aviv

Anti-overhaul protesters gather in Tel Aviv, May 20, 2023. (Gilad Furst/Courtesy)
Anti-overhaul protesters gather in Tel Aviv, May 20, 2023. (Gilad Furst/Courtesy)

Organizers of the main anti-judicial overhaul protest in Tel Aviv claim some 135,000 are gathered on Kaplan Street tonight.

The organizers cite drone footage by the Ein Hanetz company.

Previous weeks saw around 200,000 gather, according to official estimates.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been holding huge protests in Tel Aviv and nationwide against the government’s judicial overhaul plans every Saturday for the last 20 weeks, with demonstrations carrying on after the coalition paused the legislation to allow a period of dialogue on its highly divisive efforts to weaken the justice system.

Lapid at anti-overhaul protest in Herzliya: State budget is ‘a robbery’

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid speaks at an anti-overhaul rally in Herzliya, May 20, 2023. (Elad Gutman/Courtesy)
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid speaks at an anti-overhaul rally in Herzliya, May 20, 2023. (Elad Gutman/Courtesy)

Opposition chief MK Yair Lapid says the state budget, set to be approved by the end of the month, is “a robbery.”

“Look at the budget they are passing this week in the Knesset. It’s not a budget, it’s a robbery,” Lapid says at an anti-judicial overhaul rally in Herzliya.

“They are robbing our children of their future, and they are doing it with our money. They are creating an entire generation here that does not serve in the army, does not study a profession, does not work, does not pay taxes,” he says, referring to the ultra-Orthodox community.

“They tell our children, you will serve for them, you will work for them, you will pay high taxes, you will never buy an apartment, but you will have to support them,” he says.

“It doesn’t have to be that way. We are standing here because it is possible otherwise. We want a government that represents the sane majority, not the extremists,” Lapid adds.

‘The plundering government’: Thousands protest in Haifa

Anti-overhaul protesters gather in Haifa, May 20, 2023. (Dror Gilboa/Courtesy)
Anti-overhaul protesters gather in Haifa, May 20, 2023. (Dror Gilboa/Courtesy)

Thousands are protesting in the northern coastal city of Haifa this evening against the government’s judicial overhaul plans.

Organizers say the demonstrations across the country tonight are focusing on the “plunder of public coffers” in the state budget, set to be approved by the end of the month.

In Haifa, protesters unfurl a large banner that reads: “The plundering government.”

Protest groups say this “refers to the government’s attempt to give 14 billion shekels of taxpayer money to the ultra-Orthodox and ultra-nationalist settler parties.”

The government’s plans to allocate large sums of money to the ultra-Orthodox community have also drawn criticism from within the Finance Ministry for being unsustainable in the long term.

According to Channel 12 news, the main protest in Tel Aviv appears to be smaller compared to previous weeks, which has seen around 200,000 gather on Kaplan Street.

The network says protesters are urging opposition chief MK Yair Lapid and MK Benny Gantz to leave ongoing talks for a compromise on the overhaul plans at the President’s Residence. There has been little reported progress during the talks over the past two months.

Anti-overhaul protesters gather in Tel Aviv, May 20, 2023. (Gilad Furst/Courtesy)

Lapid assails proposed budget: ‘They’re using our money to destroy our kids’ future’

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid holds a press conference on the upcoming state budget, Tel Aviv, May 16, 2023. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid holds a press conference on the upcoming state budget, Tel Aviv, May 16, 2023. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Opposition leader Yair Lapid tears into the government’s proposed state budget, accusing the government of not addressing rising prices and endangering the country’s economic future.

“They are using our money to destroy our children’s future. Our children will now need to support the children who don’t study core subjects,” Lapid tells Channel 12 news, in a criticism of slated funding for ultra-Orthodox institutions.

“This is a fire sale of all that’s good for the Israeli economy,” he adds.

Lapid also addresses the ongoing talks on judicial reform at the President’s Residence, as protests against the government’s plans to overhaul the judiciary resume this evening, describing them as “fateful” for Israeli democracy.

“I’m the guy who refused time after time to enter a Netanyahu government,” he says, in apparent pushback of criticism by protesters over his participation in the talks. “It’s always difficult to do deals with him, it’s a problem of trust.”

Scuffles between Jews and Arabs reported in Jerusalem’s Old City

Right-wing Israelis clash with Palestinians in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City on Jerusalem Day, May 18, 2023. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)
Right-wing Israelis clash with Palestinians in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City on Jerusalem Day, May 18, 2023. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)

Palestinian media outlets publish footage of scuffles between Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem’s Old City.

One clip shows a group of Jewish youths using pepper spray against a group of Arabs near the Damascus Gate entrance to the Old City.

Earlier, footage showed objects being hurled in the streets of the Old City.

There is no immediate comment from police on the clashes.

Girl, 6, in serious condition after near-drowning in Jadeidi-Makr

The Magen David Adom ambulance service says medics are taking an unconscious 6-year-old girl to the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya after being pulled from a private pool at a guest house in the northern Arab town of Jadeidi-Makr.

Medics perform successful resuscitation operations on the girl en route to the hospital, MDA says.

Crowds gather for 20th week of protests against judicial overhaul

Anti-overhaul protesters gather in Rehovot, May 20, 2023. (Gilad Persett/Courtesy)
Anti-overhaul protesters gather in Rehovot, May 20, 2023. (Gilad Persett/Courtesy)

Crowds are beginning to gather at around 150 locations across the country in the 20th week of protests against the government’s plans to overhaul the judiciary.

The main protest is taking place on Tel Aviv’s Kaplan Street. Previous weeks have seen around 200,000 people participate in the rally in Tel Aviv.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been holding huge protests in Tel Aviv and nationwide against the government’s judicial overhaul plans every Saturday for the last 20 weeks, with demonstrations carrying on after the coalition paused the legislation to allow a period of dialogue on its highly divisive efforts to weaken the justice system.

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