ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 142

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Police to bolster forces ahead of anti-government ‘day of disruption’ on Tuesday

Anti-overhaul protesters plan mass rallies, protest convoys and another large protest at Ben Gurion Airport, a day after Knesset set to vote on contentious ‘reasonableness’ bill

Israelis protest against plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to overhaul the judicial system, at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, July 3, 2023. (Amir Goldstein)
Israelis protest against plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to overhaul the judicial system, at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, July 3, 2023. (Amir Goldstein)

Police were bolstering forces nationwide ahead of a planned “day of disruption” on Tuesday organized by anti-government protesters in response to the hardline coalition’s renewed efforts to overhaul Israel’s judiciary.

Protest leaders have pledged to further intensify their opposition to the plans, and were hoping for a show of force on Tuesday as they voice increasing anger over the coalition’s plan to pass in its first Knesset reading Monday a bill to remove courts’ ability to rule on the “reasonableness” of governmental decisions.

The bill would prevent the judiciary from using the “reasonableness” argument to review decisions made by the cabinet, government ministers and unspecified other elected officials, and was approved by the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee last week. The coalition aims to have it enacted into law before the Knesset breaks for summer recess at the end of July.

Anti-government protest organizers said Saturday ahead of the weekly rallies, which entered their 27th consecutive week, that Tuesday’s protests would constitute “July’s first Day of Resistance” and would include rallies, protest convoys, disruptions throughout the country and another largescale protest at Ben Gurion Airport in the afternoon.

Organizers called for a demonstration Tuesday “such as has never been seen before in Israel.” They said they were “issuing a final call for the government to stop the legislation, and not to bring for a first vote the first dictatorial law, which will give the government a blank check to act with extreme unreasonableness.”

“If the government doesn’t stop — the whole country will stop,” they said.

Israelis protest against plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to overhaul the judicial system, in Tel Aviv, July 8, 2023. Hebrew on sign reads ‘Must resist.’ (AP/Tsafrir Abayov)

Another protest announcement in English called Tuesday’s upcoming events a “day of disruption” that would include demonstrations at the airport from 4 p.m., at the US consulate in Tel Aviv and the president’s residence in Jerusalem from 6.30 p.m., and at Tel Aviv’s Kaplan Street and “various locations nationwide” at 8.30 p.m.

Last week, protesters sparked the government’s ire by converging at Ben Gurion Airport, clashing with police, defying calls to alter their plans, blocking the main airport thoroughfare, and flooding the main Terminal 3 arrivals hall as they revved up their opposition to the legislation. Some carried signs denouncing the government as a “criminal gang” and declaring that the protests were “Saving Democracy.”

The disarray caused massive traffic jams at the entrance to the airport and roads leading toward the site. Some flights were delayed, and Hebrew media reports said many passengers missed their flights.

To head off similar moves, and to prevent a repeat of the scenes at the airport seen last week, police intend to ask airport authorities to turn away from Terminal 3 people who do not have plane tickets in hand, Channel 12 reported on Sunday.

The police plan to demarcate a spot for protesters across from Terminal 3 and to prevent them from expanding to other areas. Protesters who violate the orders by trying to block roads or engaging in other disruptions will be detained or arrested, police warned, according to the report. Police will act “swiftly and decisively” if instructions are not followed, Channel 12 said.

Mounted police officers try to disperse protesters against the government’s planned judicial overhaul, at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, July 3, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The report said that, generally, police intend to respond quickly to any disruption to traffic nationwide, as seen in Saturday’s demonstration in Tel Aviv when some demonstrators descended onto the Ayalon Highway and blocked it in both directions for a short time.

The demonstrators were removed from the road by police after a short time and two people were arrested.

Saturday’s rallies in Tel Aviv were the first such demonstrations where police are commanded by Tel Aviv District deputy chief David Filo, following the departure of district head Amichai Eshed this week. Eshed’s announcement of his resignation, saying he was to be transferred from the role due to politicians’ distaste for his soft approach toward demonstrators, led to spontaneous mass protests and the blocking of the Ayalon Highway for long hours.

On Saturday, police denied a report by public broadcaster Kan that they intended to set up detention centers near various protest sites Tuesday in which to hold individuals.

In addition to the demonstrations, increasing numbers of reservists have renewed threats not to volunteer for service if the legislation passes. Also, dozens of tech companies on Saturday said workers who wished to do so could take the day off Tuesday to protest.

The weekly demonstrations have been ongoing since Justice Minister Yariv Levin revealed the overhaul plans in January and recently ramped up again as Netanyahu’s hardline coalition has renewed its efforts to push through some of the relevant laws unilaterally.

On Sunday, Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara and other senior officials in the Justice Ministry were summoned to the cabinet meeting to discuss how law enforcement agencies have dealt with the massive wave of protests which have included blocking highways and other forms of protests.

Attorney General Gali Baharav Miara arrives for a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on July 9, 2023. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

The attorney general was repeatedly attacked by several ministers and some called for her dismissal, as they railed against authorities’ handling of the protests.

Ministers have bristled at what they view as overly soft handling of demonstrators who harass and heckle them wherever they go, stage protests at their homes and block key roads for hours at a time.

At the end of the meeting Sunday, Baharav-Miara was asked to submit a document to the cabinet within seven days detailing law enforcement policy toward road-blocking, protests at elected officials’ homes and calls for refusal to serve in the military and other forms of disobedience.

She was also told to present a clear policy on enforcement at Ben Gurion Airport by Tuesday.

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