Law bill said aimed at severely curbing protests, boosting police tools against them

Illustrative: Police officers operate in Jerusalem, December 20, 2022. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)
Illustrative: Police officers operate in Jerusalem, December 20, 2022. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)

A law bill that has been in the works since the previous government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu some two years ago aims to dramatically curb citizens’ ability to hold protests, requiring police approval for any demonstration of over 100 people and boosting police tools to act against unrest, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

Over the years, court rulings have gradually expanded the right to protest and protected demonstrators’ rights.

The legislation would reportedly allow police to disperse an entire protest over violence or vandalism, even if it was committed by a single person, or if there is fear the protest may cause a public disturbance. It would also allow any police officer to expel an individual from the area of the protest for three hours, with immediate effect.

The bill would also introduce administrative fines of NIS 1,500 ($450) and NIS 5,000 ($1,500) for protesters who refuse to adhere to cops’ instructions, for those who organize rallies of over 100 people without receiving a police okay, and for those expelled from a protest who return to the area after less than three hours, the report says.

The law would also for the first time codify in the law — rather than just in court rulings — limits on protests near residences of public figures, saying they can’t be held less than 100 meters from the house.

Kan says work on this law didn’t start in the new government and has been worked on for years by the Public Security Ministry — now rebranded as the National Security Ministry — the Israel Police and the Justice Ministry. The legislation was worked on at the time amid weekly mass anti-government protests near the official residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

The report adds that details may be changed by the time the bill is finalized.

Commenting on the report, the National Security Ministry and the Justice Ministry are quoted by Kan as confirming such a law is being worked on, refusing to go into details.

After the report is aired, however, the office of National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir — a far-right politician who has sought to up police’s crackdown on current anti-government protests as part of unprecedented control he has been given over police policy — goes back on its previous response and instead calls the report “false.”

Ben Gvir’s office says it is an “old bill that was promoted by previous minister Omer Barlev” — who entered office 1.5 years ago — “and whose existence hasn’t been brought to incoming minister Ben Gvir’s attention.

Ben Gvir, the statement says, “completely rejects” this bill.

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