Protesters blocked roads, disrupted trains and marched in cities across the country on Wednesday as part of a “national day of disruption” against the government’s judicial overhaul plan.
Twenty two people were detained by police at various protests around the central region.
The day’s demonstrations kicked off when a group of military reservists blocked Route 1 near Sha’ar Hagai Interchange between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Police arrived soon after to clear the protesters and open the road to traffic.
Protesters at Tel Aviv train stations blocked passengers from boarding and disembarking from trains. Israel Railways said in a statement that trains would not be stopping at HaShalom, Savidor, or University stations because of the protests.
A demonstrator at Tel Aviv’s Hahagana train station told the Maariv daily that participants were making efforts not to act violently.
“We are against this coup and dictatorship. Israel won’t be a dictatorship,” he said. “Today, the entire country is barricaded.”
Students and parents protested outside dozens of educational institutions and marched through Tel Aviv’s Namir thoroughfare.
Minor scuffles broke out as police tried to remove parents and children who were blocking the road.
Protestors also blocked the Ayalon highway in central Tel Aviv and four people were arrested on suspicion of disturbing the peace.
In addition, two people were arrested for alleged disturbances near Kfar Saba.
חסימות בתל אביב במספר מוקדים, איינשטיין, יהודה מכבי/נמיר וגם בבני אפרים כפי שתיעדה תמר גלמור pic.twitter.com/xNXfkVCr2O
— Bar Peleg (@bar_peleg) March 1, 2023
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel, and National Security Council chair Tzachi Hanegbi canceled their attendance at the annual conference of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv, with roads blocked in the area due to a rally taking place outside.
Dozens of protesters also demonstrated outside the home of Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana.
Police said they arrested six demonstrators for rioting and ignoring police instruction at the Kfar Hayarok interchange near Tel Aviv.
Another individual was detained for allegedly attacking a police officer in south Tel Aviv.
Police later said nine people were arrested at the Namir/Rokach interchange in north Tel Aviv.
The “day of disruption” includes a series of planned demonstrations and protest marches around the country, as well as temporary strikes at various workplaces and schools, the blocking of roads, and “house calls” at or near the homes of coalition lawmakers and ministers.
“Israel won’t become a dictatorship — the millions who have taken to the streets over the past eight weeks have made this clear — and we are now moving on to direct action,” the organizers said in a statement.
מפגינים חסמו את הכניסה לרכבת בתחנת ההגנה בת"א. אחד המפגינים אמר למעריב: "אנחנו משתדלים לא להרים ידיים ולא לפעול באלימות. אנחנו נגד הפיכה משטרית ודיקטטורה. בישראל לא תהיה דיקטטורה". (צילום: מיכאל פובולוצקי) @ArnoldNataev pic.twitter.com/uOicdZrqJl
— מעריב אונליין (@MaarivOnline) March 1, 2023
The Israel Police was preparing too, collecting intelligence on organizers’ plans and boosting forces in an attempt to minimize public disruption. Protesters said clear efforts were made by officers to document who was attending some of the demonstrations, including filming children.
Police arrived at Tel Aviv’s Hashalom Junction in the morning to block it in both directions. In a statement, police said they would show “zero tolerance toward disruptions of order, harm to property and harm to government symbols,” and wouldn’t allow road-blocking that wasn’t coordinated ahead of time.
Following a police assessment on Tuesday, National Security Minister Ben Gvir vowed that the roads would be kept open and that police would clear away disruptions.
“I am for democratic protest but I will not allow civil rebellion and anarchists to block main roads. We need to ensure that the citizens of Israel can go about their days. I instructed police to open all roads if they are blocked,” he said in a statement.
Far-right Otzma Yehudit leader Ben Gvir has received increased powers over police policy and has urged a tough hand against the anti-government protests.
The protest movement urged police on Tuesday to “ignore” Ben Gvir, calling him a “schoolyard bully.” The organizers called on cops to “secure the democratic protest and give [Ben Gvir] spare time to do the only thing he is knowledgeable in — making TikTok videos.”
The Knesset committee is set to hold a vote on Wednesday to advance part of the government’s contentious legal overhaul, which it has steamrolled through the legislative process in recent weeks.
Meanwhile in the Knesset, the House Committee was set to discuss which committee would host discussions of two overhaul bills that passed their preliminary reading in the plenum last week, and prepare them for the reading out of their remaining plenum votes before they become law.
One of these bills, aimed at reinstating Shas party leader Aryeh Deri as a minister despite a High Court disqualification over his multiple past convictions, would eliminate court oversight on ministerial appointments, except for the basic requirements laid out in current laws.
The second bill would increase the government’s control of the Police Internal Investigations Department — a Justice Ministry body tasked with probing police wrongdoing — disconnecting it from the State Attorney’s Office and having the justice minister personally appoint its head.
Later in the day, the Knesset plenum was set to vote in a preliminary reading on a bill that would sharply reduce the circumstances under which the recusal of a prime minister could be ordered.
A vote is also set to be held on forbidding bringing leavened goods into public hospitals during the Passover holiday.
The government-pushed legislation follows media reports — since denied — that Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara was considering forcing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take a leave of absence for breaching the terms of a conflict of interest agreement he signed. The agreement bars him from dealing with the legal shakeup as it could affect the outcome of his ongoing corruption trial.
Following is a schedule of the main planned protest activities, as announced by the organizers:
- 8 a.m.: Demonstrations by parents and students outside dozens of schools across the country, including “lessons on democracy.”
- 8 a.m.: Protests at various train stations, under the title “Stopping the legislative train.”
- 8:30 a.m.: A rally outside Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv, where the annual conference of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) is taking place. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (Likud) and National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi are set to take part in the conference. Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel and MK Danny Danon, both of Likud, canceled their planned participation on Tuesday. Speaking at the protest will be former IDF chief Dan Halutz and former Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin.
- 10 a.m.: A march from Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Center to Kaplan Street.
- 10 a.m.: Protest convoys of agricultural vehicles leaving from about 70 kibbutzim across the country.
- 11 a.m.: Protests by tech employees across the country.
- 2 p.m.: An “emergency rally” by healthcare employees, titled “Without democracy, there is no health,” near the Tel Aviv District Court on Weitzmann Street.
- 4 p.m.: A protest at Jerusalem’s Rose Garden, near the Knesset, coinciding with the start of the plenum session.
- 5 p.m.: A “day of rage” event at Karkur Junction in the north.
- 7 p.m.: until midnight: A protest near Netanyahu’s private residence on Jerusalem’s Gaza Street, and a march to President Isaac Herzog’s official residence.
- 8 p.m.: A “rage protest” on Tel Aviv’s Shaul HaMelech Street.