Protesters forcibly removed from Knesset ahead of vote on ‘reasonableness’ bill

Knesset speaker hails ushers, says he won’t allow parliament to turn into oft-blocked Tel Aviv highway; Yesh Atid MKs found to be responsible for entry permits to protesters

Anti-judicial overhaul activists are removed from the Knesset, July 10, 2023. (Twitter screenshot, used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)
Anti-judicial overhaul activists are removed from the Knesset, July 10, 2023. (Twitter screenshot, used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)

Members of the Knesset Guard forcibly removed several anti-government protesters from the building shortly before the Knesset plenum began a first reading vote of the first piece of legislation from the coalition’s judicial overhaul package on Monday.

Scenes caught on camera showed ushers picking up and dragging several demonstrators sitting on the floor and moving them away from the plenum, where the commotion could be heard as MKs met inside. The demonstrators appeared to have been trying to block the entrance to the plenum — where only MKs are allowed — and had refused to get up off the ground.

Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana issued a statement shortly afterward, in which he praised the conduct of the Knesset Guard and said the protesters were being transferred to the police.

“The members of the Knesset who invited the rioters in should conduct some deep soul-searching over their attempt to disrupt the democratic process,” Ohana said, adding that he would not allow the parliament building to turn into the Ayalon — the Tel Aviv highway that has been repeatedly blocked by anti-overhaul protesters.

The Knesset Spokesperson’s Office issued a subsequent statement revealing that a police complaint had been filed against the protesters by the Knesset Guard over allegations that they had sought to harm public order and the democratic process.

Guests in the Knesset must receive an invitation from a lawmaker in order to enter, and the Knesset Spokesperson’s Office revealed that Yesh Atid MKs Merav Cohen and Naor Shiri were the ones who signed off on the invitations to the demonstrators who were arrested.

The statement said the Knesset’s Ethics Committee would decide whether to sanction the two lawmakers. It was unclear whether the MKs were aware of what the demonstrators were planning.

Protests against the overhaul are expected to intensify after the coalition’s slated advancement of legislation limiting the use of the judicial doctrine of reasonableness later Monday evening.

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 effort to overhaul Israel’s judiciary.

On Saturday, ahead of the weekly rallies, which entered their 27th consecutive week, anti-government protest organizers said 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.”

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 embassy branch office 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.

Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.

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