Israelis bring road traffic to a halt as protests against judicial attack continue

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Israelis bring road traffic to a halt as protests against judicial attack continue

Thousands on the streets after politicians from the ruling coalition progress laws to subordinate Israeli courts to Israeli ministers

A rainbow from the water cannons over protesters at Ein Hemed Junction. Credit: Ilan Rosenberg
A rainbow from the water cannons over protesters at Ein Hemed Junction. Credit: Ilan Rosenberg

Israeli protesters have blocked national highways after Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition allies voted to clip the Supreme Court’s oversight powers in its latest attack against the country’s judiciary.

After 27 weeks of nationwide protests that united different sections of Israeli society, Netanyahu had seemed to be rowing back on the more controversial elements of his judicial “reform”, but by Monday that appeared to be more hope than reality.

Politicians from his party and those of his allies also progressed a bill that will stop any judicial review of the “reasonableness” of government decisions.

This now includes decisions of “officials”, which critics say effectively bans citizens from petitioning against their local authorities.

Police in Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv seeking to marshal anti-government protesters. Credit: Or Adar

On Tuesday, anger spilled over. Many of the country’s major road routes were blocked in places like Herzliya, Haifa, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Ein Hemed Junction, as crowds of protesters waving Israeli flags stopped morning traffic at busy intersections either by lying down in roads, throwing flares, or burning tyres.

Police on horseback were used to disperse the protesters, as was water cannon. Others were dragged away by force, with 66 people arrested by mid-afternoon on suspicion of violating public order.

On Tel Aviv’s Kaplan Street, a mounted officer was filmed knocking an elderly protester over and then trampling on him.

Anti-government protesters in Kaplan Street, Tel Aviv. Credit: Yigal Tzemach

Meanwhile, at Ben-Gurion International Airport, thousands once again descended on Terminal 3, as they did last week. Transport minister Miri Regev and national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir were both angered by attorney-general Gali Baharav-Miara’s decision to approve anti-government protests there.

“Ben Gurion Airport isn’t a mall or a public space, it’s a strategic asset,” raged Regev, who has called for Baharav-Miara to be fired. “I expect the attorney general to allow the sound management of the facility, not lend a hand to lawbreakers.”

A ‘no entry to dictatorship’ sign at Ben-Gurion Airport amidst a wave of massive anti-government protests. Credit: Chen Leopold

Likewise, Ben-Gvir accused Baharav-Miara of “backing rioters”, but opposition leader and former army chief Benny Gantz defended the protesters for “leading this fight” because they were “worried for the country”.

He said: “I call on them to continue… Ultimately, the protests will block this judicial coup.” He also urged the police not to use force against the demonstrators, saying: “These are not enemies.”

Former defence minister Benny Gantz with anti-government protesters in Tel Aviv. Credit: Yael Gadot

Arab party leader Mansour Abbas said the standard of “reasonableness” in judicial review was an important tool for Arab Israelis seeking redress in the Israeli court system, describing it as “a line of defence against destructive decisions”.

Banning the judiciary from reviewing the reasonableness of ministerial decisions would lead to Israeli Arabs feeling abandoned by the state, he added.

The latest crack to appear in the country’s fracturing veneer came from Israeli reservist pilots, after hundreds threatened to down tools if the legislation passed. “We swore to serve the kingdom, not the king,” said one.

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