Police question journalist outside his home over anti-Netanyahu tweet

Haaretz reporter Uri Misgav accosted by cops after apparently warning PM, wife not to go to Berlin on Wednesday, later saying he meant due to ‘democratic protests that await them’

Journalist Uri Misgav speaks at a conference of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, held in Tel Aviv on March 28, 2019. (Flash90)
Journalist Uri Misgav speaks at a conference of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, held in Tel Aviv on March 28, 2019. (Flash90)

Police questioned a prominent journalist on Saturday night over an online post in which he “recommended” that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not follow through with his upcoming state visit to Berlin.

“I really recommend that the dictator cancel his planned trip to Berlin on Wednesday,” Haaretz journalist Uri Misgav wrote on Saturday afternoon. “It’s not appropriate… take my word for it.”

Several hours later, as Misgav and his wife left their home in the Tel Aviv suburb of Jaffa to head to a protest against the government’s judicial overhaul plans, two police officers stopped him for questioning, Misgav said in a subsequent tweet.

Recounting the incident, which he said lasted between three and four minutes, Misgav said that the police officers told him they had been sent to question him over the online post.

The cops, whom Misgav described as “cute” and “embarrassed,” asked him whether he had any intention to cause harm to the prime minister, he told the Walla news site. “Who sent you?” Misgav said he asked the cops, to which they responded: “We’re in a very sensitive situation.”

On Twitter, Misgav, a longtime critic of Netanyahu’s policies, clarified that he was suggesting that the prime minister and his wife, Sara, avoid flying to Berlin due to the “democratic protests that await them” in Germany, implicitly rejecting any threat of violence.

Alongside the protest movement sweeping the country, demonstrations have been held in cities around the world, including one in Rome on Friday during a state vist by the prime minister. Berlin, where approximately 10,000 Israelis live, was the site of a protest against the judicial makeover plans in early February.

Multiple protest organizers suggested in online posts that the Netanyahus will be greeted with demonstrations during his official visit, slated to begin on Wednesday, but did not provide details. Activists in Israel are also seeking to disrupt the slated trip with protests planned at Ben Gurion Airport on Wednesday, as they did last week ahead of his visit to Rome.

Misgav’s run-in with police come with National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir having routinely been accused of trying to politicize the force, for which he is responsible.

“We are in historic and surreal days. I don’t think police need to wait for a journalist, and definitely not for civilians, over a tweet,” Misgav told Walla. “It was clear to me that [the police] were sent. I really hope that Ben Gvir did not give orders to the police station. It’s quite worrying.”

Last Thursday, Ben Gvir reassigned Tel Aviv police chief Amichai Eshed to a different position — a move widely interpreted as a dismissal of Eshed due to the minister’s perception that he was being soft on anti-government protesters.

The decision triggered outrage and has since been frozen by Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara.

Weekly anti-government protests, including the one attended by Misgav, entered their tenth week on Saturday night, with 200,000 said to have attended the Tel Aviv rally alone, according to media estimates.

The protests were held as the coalition readies to charge full steam ahead from Sunday with its highly contentious remaking of the judiciary, thus far rejecting pleas, including from the president, to scrap its current legislation and instead negotiate a broadly accepted compromise.

Organizers said they would further ramp up their response if the government doesn’t shelve the overhaul legislation, with a planned “day of escalating resistance” declared for Thursday.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report. 

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