Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara on Sunday did not show up as expected for a planned getaway at a hotel in the Golan Heights, as police prepared for a repeat of the couple’s stay in August, when protests against the judicial overhaul and road closures frustrated local residents.
Police officers, accompanied by a water cannon for crowd dispersal, deployed to the moshav of Neve Ativ, as protesters arrived in anticipation of the expected visit Sunday.
However, after the Netanyahus did not arrive as scheduled, some Hebrew media outlets said the couple delayed the trip until Monday, though one report said they would be in Neve Ativ later Sunday evening.
It was not clear why the trip was delayed, although Netanyahu presided over a meeting with Israel’s security chiefs earlier Sunday.
Last week, after finding out that the premier and his wife were planning to visit again, the moshav informed residents that a request had been sent to the couple asking them “to cancel the planned visit” to the local Panda Hotel.
The Netanyahus appeared to have rebuffed that appeal.
Their previous stay at the hotel drew hundreds of protesters who oppose the coalition’s controversial judicial overhaul plans to the normally quiet community. This in turn led police to heavily restrict movement in and out of Neve Ativ, to residents’ dismay.
Activists will be allowed into the moshav, in coordination with police and in accordance with a High Court of Justice ruling.
In response to the reported delay, protest organizers said in a statement they were “ready for any scenario.”
“Let every elected official who takes part in the destruction of democracy know — the citizens of Israel, the fighters for democracy, will be there at any place and at any time to protest and warn against the destruction that you are leading. Israel will not be a dictatorship!” the statement said.
The community said that during the prime minister’s previous stay, residents’ movements were severely restricted by the police closure of the moshav as they attempted to keep protesters away and suffered “serious harm to residents’ freedom of movement and work.
“It’s important to emphasize that any scenario will disrupt the routine life of the moshav, so we will try to find the balance and reduce consequences. Closing gates and restricting movement will cause enormous damage to freedom of movement and tourism. Opening gates will cause hundreds of protesters to enter the community and disrupt routine,” it added.
Petitioned on the matter during the previous visit, the High Court ruled at the time that “there were a few mistakes” in the police’s handling of the protests in August. However, petitions against police conduct were dismissed because protesters were eventually allowed to enter the premises following a two-day standoff.
The protesters are opposed to the government’s highly contentious judicial overhaul program, which would remove many of the High Court of Justice’s checks and balances over the government. The first major piece of legislation in the overhaul was passed in July, barring the court from striking down cabinet or ministerial decisions and appointments based on the doctrine of reasonableness.
Anti-overhaul demonstrations have regularly targeted members of the government with protests and heckling outside their homes and throughout the country at public and private events.
Activists also pursued Netanyahu during his recent trip to the US.