A protest group representing reservist soldiers rallied Thursday morning outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem, claiming the premier is ruining the key strategic relations with the United States.
The Israel Police said it had pushed back the several hundreds of Brothers in Arms protesters after they came within the buffer zone around the residence on the capital’s Gaza Street and ignored instructions to clear the road.
Two protesters were detained and taken for questioning.
Demonstrators waved Israeli and US flags while claiming that Netanyahu is distancing the country’s top ally even as arch-foe Iran rushes to obtain nuclear weapons.
Unusually, Washington has yet to invite Netanyahu for an official visit since he formed his coalition of right-wing, religious and far-right parties at the end of last year. The US has raised concerns over comments by far-right elements of the government and over the coalition’s planned overhaul of the judiciary which has prompted months of mass weekly protests, including by Brother in Arms.
The government says the overhaul is needed to rein in an over-intrusive High Court. Critics say it will sap the court of its ability to act as a check and balance against the Knesset, dangerously harming Israel’s democratic character.
Though Netanyahu has put the legislation on hold since late March while negotiations are held with opposition parties aimed at reaching a formula for an agreed reform, the prime minister announced Wednesday — after the Knesset passed the crucial state budget — that he will now push ahead with the judicial shakeup.
“The US is boycotting Netanyahu and Iran is rushing to a nuclear bomb because of a coup d’état that will destroy Israeli democracy,” the group said in a statement, referring to the overhaul. Netanyahu, they accused, “has lost our best friend and he is trying to put us to sleep with ‘freezes’ and fake talks. Netanyahu has to choose now — a strong and democratic Israel, or an Iranian bomb that will endanger us all.”
A bus carrying protesters was stopped on its way to the rally, Channel 12 news reported. The vehicle was halted some two kilometers from the residence, and the passengers were taken off and prevented from reaching the rally.
Police reportedly brought in a water cannon, but the protesters had already dispersed before it was put into action.
On Tuesday, IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi warned of potential “negative developments” regarding Iran’s nuclear program and its uranium enrichment that would cause Israel to react.
“Without going into details, there are possible negative developments on the horizon that could prompt action,” Halevi said.
Earlier this month, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that he believes Netanyahu will be invited to the White House at some point, but reiterated that no such visit is currently planned.
On Monday, Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel said that Netanyahu will receive an invitation from US President Joe Biden’s administration to Washington in the near future.
Speaking at the Herzliya Conference, the Likud member said that during her trip to Washington earlier this month, she received an unequivocal indication that the invite will be forthcoming.