Netanyahu ‘won’t relax at our expense,’ protesters vow outside Galilee vacation spot

As PM’s convoy enters Moshav Ramot near Sea of Galilee, hundreds hold noisy rally nearby; similar protests were held last week when premier vacationed in Neve Ativ

Protesters rally at the entrance to Moshav Ramot as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's convoy arrives for a vacation, August 14, 2023. (Screenshot: X; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Protesters rally at the entrance to Moshav Ramot as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's convoy arrives for a vacation, August 14, 2023. (Screenshot: X; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Hundreds of protesters opposed to the hardline coalition’s push to overhaul Israel’s judiciary converged at the entrance to Moshav Ramot on Monday, near the Sea of Galilee, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived to begin his family vacation.

The anti-Netanyahu protesters waved Israel flags and donned shirts with pro-democracy slogans, urging resistance to the judicial overhaul, as the premier’s convoy arrived at the entrance to the northern moshav.

Some protesters did not wait for the convoy and held a protest flyby over the moshav and the Sea of Galilee on Monday morning, with signs slamming Netanyahu as a “liar.”

The organized protests against the judicial remake entered their 32nd consecutive week on Saturday, as tens of thousands of Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv and cities across the country for mass rallies and demonstrations.

The anti-overhaul protests have also included rallies outside coalition ministers’ homes, including the prime minister’s, blocking highways, disrupting airport operations, and other forms of civil disobedience.

Netanyahu and his hard-right coalition government have indicated that they intend to pass the most critical part of the legislative package — changing the makeup of the Judicial Selection Committee — despite massive public opposition, alarmed warnings by business leaders about the dire threats to the economy, and mounting tiffs with military chiefs over the damage to military morale and readiness as thousands have refused to show up for reserve duty.

As the coalition advanced the first major piece of related legislation last month, more than 10,000 reservists who frequently arrive for duty on a voluntary basis said they would no longer do so. The reservists, some of whom have acted on their threats, have warned they will not be able to serve in an undemocratic Israel, which some charge the country will become if the government’s overhaul plans are realized.

The current judicial selection bill is perhaps the most far-reaching and controversial measure in the judicial shakeup package and will follow the passage late last month of the reasonableness law, which bars judicial review of government and ministerial decisions on the grounds of their “reasonableness.”

The bill, which was suspended in March but is ready to be brought for its final readings at short notice, would remake the Judicial Selection Committee, under which coalition and Supreme Court representatives currently each have veto power over the other’s candidates for the top court, requiring a consensus on such appointments. Instead, the legislation would change the composition of the panel so as to bring appointments throughout the judicial hierarchy under near-absolute government control.

Protest organizers of Monday’s rally outside Netanyahu’s vacation spot said in a statement Monday that “the criminal defendant won’t relax and enjoy life’s pleasures at our expense while he’s destroying our country.”

“The lying, divisive, and inciting tyrant is cooperating with messianic enemies from within,” they said, a reference to Netanyahu’s key coalition partners, far-right parties Otzma Yehudit and Religious Zionism, and ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism.

Netanyahu’s vacation started a day later than originally planned, after it was pushed off Sunday for the premier to hold a series of meetings with top security brass. The meetings came after Netanyahu reportedly shouted at his top military leaders in a phone conference on Friday for disclosing worries about damage to the country’s defenses wrought by the reservists suspending volunteer duty to protest his government.

“It looks like the army is running the country,” Netanyahu reportedly exploded at the pair, according to unsourced reports carried by Channels 12 and 13.

“You’re damaging our deterrent credibility,” Netanyahu was said to have shouted at Israel Defense Forces Chief Herzi Halevi and Air Force head Tomer Bar. “Why are you putting out headlines like this?”

The Friday conference came hours after the army confirmed that Bar had warned protesting reserve pilots of “worsening damage to the army’s readiness.”

Both Halevi and Bar refused requests to walk back the comments on the army’s readiness, the reports claimed, with Halevi quoted as telling Netanyahu that “it is our duty to issue a warning when the army’s fitness is at risk.”

Last week, Netanyahu’s previous vacation in the Golan community of Neve Ativ was also accompanied by protests. Police initially did not allow the demonstrators into the community, which prompted them to form a tent encampment nearby.

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