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Ninth week of protests

Israeli protesters plan new day of disruption

"We will not stop the struggle for one minute until we ensure the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state."

Israelis block a road and clash with police as they protest against the government's planned judicial overhaul. Photo: Erik Marmor/Flash90
Israelis block a road and clash with police as they protest against the government's planned judicial overhaul. Photo: Erik Marmor/Flash90

Organisers of protests against the Israeli government’s planned overhaul of the judiciary were gearing up for another major campaign to disrupt daily life on Thursday (today), including blocking roads around Ben Gurion Airport in an attempt to prevent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from catching his flight to Italy for an official visit.

Hundreds of thousands of people rallied throughout Israel last Saturday in the ninth straight weekend of protests against the government’s efforts to radically transform the judiciary, with some 160,000 estimated in Tel Aviv alone.

Thursday’s protest has been dubbed as “a day of resistance to the dictatorship, during which traffic in Israel will be disrupted: in the air, at sea, and on land”.

In a statement, organisers said protest convoys, including some agricultural vehicles and equipment, will set off around the country throughout the day, along with rallies at different locations, an evening protest outside the home of Justice Minister Yariv Levin, and other actions against coalition lawmakers and ministers.

A major rally in Tel Aviv will also set off from the city’s Habima Square.

In addition, there will be protests by workers from the tech sector at 15 locations around the country.

Organisers said the actions were only “initial events that can be revealed to media at the moment” and promised “many surprises”.

“Next week we will increase the efforts of the struggle with new means,” they vowed. “We will not stop the struggle for one minute until we ensure the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”

Protest organisers also responded to Netanyahu’s statement to the media on Monday in which he spoke out against military reservists who are threatening to not turn up for service in protest of the judicial plans. Netanyahu said that “refusal to serve threatens the foundation of our existence, and therefore it must have no place in our ranks”.

“The dictatorship is an existential threat to the State of Israel,” protesters said in their response.

Last week, protesters held a “day of disruption” around the country with a flagship rally in Tel Aviv that blocked a key junction in the city. Police used mounted officers, water cannons, and stun grenades to disperse them. The force came under criticism for the rough treatment of the protesters, including an officer who hurled a stun grenade into a crowd of people. An investigation has been opened into the officer’s actions.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir has instructed police to use a heavy hand against anti-judicial overhaul protesters who block roads, and who have been painted by himself and several members of the government as “anarchists”.

Ben Gvir claimed on Monday that he has intelligence that some of the protesters against the government’s judicial overhaul are planning to kill him and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The comments sparked outrage among opposition figures.

“I call for Netanyahu to fire Ben Gvir before it is too late!” National Unity party leader Benny Gantz tweeted. “A person [Ben Gvir] who was involved in [Jewish] terror instead of being drafted into the army is delegitimising patriotic protesters. Ben Gvir and the inciters are the fuel for [military service] refusal,” Gantz said.

Opposition chief Yair Lapid called Ben Gvir a liar and a “clown”.

Critics say the proposed judicial overhaul will weaken Israel’s democratic character, remove a key element of its checks and balances, and leave minorities unprotected. Supporters say it is a much-needed reform to rein in an activist court.

The Moody’s rating agency said on Tuesday that the judicial shakeup could weaken Israel’s institutional strength and negatively affect its economic outlook.

The warning was the latest signal from the business community that the government’s plans may hamper continued investment in the country, with reports that some have already begun curtailing or completely freezing the flow of money into Israel.

The “proposed judicial overhaul could lead to weaker checks and balances with negative implications for the country’s institutions and governance strength”, the ratings agency said.

“The planned changes could also pose longer-term risks for Israel’s economic prospects, particularly capital inflows into the important high-tech sector.”

TIMES OF ISRAEL

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