Protesters hound ministers as well as policy architect of judicial overhaul

Demonstrators heckle Justice Minister Levin in Golan Heights, Environment Protection Minister Idit Silman in Haifa, and hold rally outside home of Kohelet think tank head in Efrat

Screen capture from video of anti-government protesters at a rally against Justice Minister Yariv Levin in Katzrin, the Golan Heights, June 1, 2023. (Twitter. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Screen capture from video of anti-government protesters at a rally against Justice Minister Yariv Levin in Katzrin, the Golan Heights, June 1, 2023. (Twitter. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Protesters against the government’s plans for a drastic overhaul of the judiciary held rallies Thursday outside events attended by two government ministers, heckling them as they tried to give speeches.

A protest rally was also held outside the home of Moshe Koppel, head of the Kohelet Policy Forum, a think tank that has spearheaded much of the effort behind the reforms.

The government says the overhaul is needed to rein in what it sees as an over-intrusive High Court of Justice. Critics say it will sap the court’s power to act as a check and balance against the Knesset, dangerously harming Israel’s democratic nature.

The overhaul has been on hold since late March while negotiations are held with opposition parties for agreed-upon changes to the justice system, but with no announced progress in talks yet. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other coalition figures have vowed that reforms will be enacted even without agreement.

Justice Minister Yariv Levin, who is spearheading the overhaul, was in Katzrin in the Golan Heights to participate in a ceremony to inaugurate a new judicial building in the community. He was joined there by Supreme Court President Esther Hayut, who has spoken out against the government’s plan.

Outside the building, protesters gathered and shouted slogans, with cries of “disgrace” reportedly heard inside as Levin spoke.

Dozens of people also protested at the University of Haifa where Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman was participating in a conference. As Silman spoke, people in the audience heckled her, also shouting “disgrace.”

Two protesters stood in front of Silman holding flags with anti-government slogans, the Walla news site reported.

Minister of Environmental Protection Idit Silman speaks at an Energy Conference in Tel Aviv, March 13, 2023. (Tomer Neuberg/ Flash90)

Organizers of the protest against Silman said it was “about time that elected officials hear the voice of the public, the public that didn’t vote for a coup” against the judiciary.

Outside the building, the minister was surrounded by protesters waving anti-government posters. Though police did not intervene with the protesters, Haaretz news outlet photographer Rami Shalosh was knocked to the floor by officers. Shalosh was lightly hurt but did not require medical treatment. His camera was damaged.

Israel Police spokesperson Eli Levi, who is personally acquainted with Shalosh, later called the photographer to apologize, Walla reported. Police sources told the outlet that Israel Police Chief Yaakov Shabtai asked for an internal inquiry into what had happened. The officer who shoved Shalosh, and his commander, also both apologized to him, according to the report. Shalosh told Walla he will not be filing a complaint, adding that though he takes a serious view of the incident, he had accepted the officer’s apology.

Prof. Moshe Koppel at a Times of Israel Live event at Jerusalem’s Israel Democracy Institute, December 15, 2022. (Oded Antman/IDI)

Earlier in the day, protesters arrived at the home of Kohelet chief Koppel in the West Bank settlement of Efrat.

Demonstrators posted flyers on the fence of Koppel’s home reading “Here lives a collaborator with a dictator” — an apparent reference to Netanyahu.

On Tuesday, Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis pulled out of a Los Angeles event amid a protest at the venue against the government’s contentious plans.

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