Police said to reject minister’s request to move rallies away from PM residence

Legal adviser tells Amir Ohana that High Court order prevents barring protests against Netanyahu, despite neighbors complaining the gatherings have made their lives hell

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana speaks during a press conference at the Public Security Ministry on July 15, 2020. (Screen capture/YouTube)
Public Security Minister Amir Ohana speaks during a press conference at the Public Security Ministry on July 15, 2020. (Screen capture/YouTube)

Police reportedly pushed back against a direct request from Public Security Minister Amir Ohana on Wednesday to relocate the mass protests against both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the policies of his government that have been taking place outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem.

Ahead of further protests set for Thursday, Ohana met with a group of local residents who have complained about the noise and chaos of recent protests, saying they have made life unbearable for those who live near the Rehavia neighborhood residence, Army Radio reported Thursday.

The minister told senior police officials, who were also participating in the meeting, to move the protests to another location, such as Sacher Park, where there is more open space and less risk of disturbing residents, according to the report.

But the police officials said such a move would not be possible as previous High Court orders prevent law enforcement from transferring protests on such grounds.

Police use a water cannon against demonstrators during a protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, July 18, 2020 (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Ohana also suggested that the anti-Netanyahu protests be barred altogether, but the police’s legal adviser said law enforcement had no legal authority to make such a decision, Army Radio reported.

As a result, Ohana, who is the minister responsible for the police, recommended to the residents that they themselves petition the High Court in order to have the protests moved. Later that day, the residents did just that and are now awaiting a response from the top legal body.

Police in response to the report said they will continue to operate to protect free speech, while also taking into consideration the concerns of local residents and the need to maintain public order.

Law enforcement is expected to be further put to the test on Thursday evening when two protests are scheduled to take place outside the premier’s official residence — one in favor of Netanyahu and the other against him. Each is expected to attract thousands of demonstrators.

In light of the growing protests against Netanyahu, Ohana repeated his assertion on Wednesday that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit was failing to take seriously threats against the premier.

Ohana told Army Radio that “threats are at a record high. I think anyone with eyes… can see explicit threats of murder” as part of the mass protests against Netanyahu. “Not things you need to interpret… very clear statements.”

A protester faces police during a demonstration against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, July 18, 2020 (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

He asserted that if not for the prime minister’s protection and bodyguards, “someone would have already risen up and done something.

“I see the hate rising up and reaching irrational levels. It brings some people to write, ‘Who will be the ‘hero’ that will be the next Yigal Amir,’” he claimed.

Thousands gathered outside Netanyahu’s home on Tuesday night, and later marched to the Knesset, calling on him to resign. Thirty-five people were arrested when clashes broke out after midnight.

The protests brought together a wide range of groups, with some demonstrators railing against the government’s handling of the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and others calling for the premier to resign over his indictment on graft charges.

They included restaurant owners angry at the repeated closures forced upon them in recent months, self-employed Israelis who say government financial support has been insufficient, and the so-called “black flag” anti-corruption protesters against Netanyahu. Dozens also called for justice for an autistic East Jerusalem man Iyad Halak, shot dead by police in May.

Tuesday’s protest followed several other recent demonstrations outside the Prime Minister’s Residence and elsewhere. A number of the rallies — often noisy gatherings with vuvuzelas and drums — have seen the blocking of roads by demonstrators and clashes between police and protesters, including over the weekend in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

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