Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government is stifling the right to protest, Meretz MKs said on Sunday, following the weekend’s clashes between police and social justice demonstrators in Tel Aviv.

“We have become a police state, in which the government uses the police as a political weapon to silence criticism,” Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On charged.

“This is behavior that suits a banana republic, not a democratic state.”

Though Gal-On condemned the vandalism by rioters, saying there is “no justification for violence, which begets more violence,” she said her party would reconsider its partnership with Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai in the city council.

Gal-On spoke at “Meretz 2022,” the party’s ideological conference called in north Tel Aviv.

Meretz members gathered around 25 tables, each assigned to a different topic, such as “Social Justice and the Occupation,” “Civil Disobedience” and “Religious Pluralism.” The conclusions drawn and goals set by the various discussion groups will contribute to Meretz’s platform and its vision for the future.

MK Nitzan Horowitz echoed Gal-On’s criticism, saying that “there is no doubt the government is attempting to decrease the freedom to protest.”

He added that he was witness to several such incidents in recent weeks, which went beyond clashes during demonstrations, and included police interrogation of activists prior to protests.

Also at the Meretz conference, Gal-On connected rocket fire from Gaza to construction in settlements.

“We cannot tolerate the suffering of residents of the South. Firing rockets is a war crime,” she said.

However, Gal-On claimed there was quiet in the South until after Netanyahu’s announcement that new homes will be built in the West Bank.

In addition, according to Gal-On, the reason for delays in rocket-proofing buildings near the Gaza border is because hundreds of millions of shekels were diverted to settlement construction.

“Settlements and the occupation have a price, which residents of the South are paying,” she said.

Gal-On also made a dig at Netanyahu when speaking out against an attack on Iran, saying that “whoever cannot put out a fire in the Carmel forest, cannot go to war.”

The Meretz leader slammed Labor, saying “some parties have decided they don’t need to talk about settlements, and have separated themselves from matters of war and peace.”

“Whoever thinks there can be social justice without ending the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict is lying,” Gal-On said.

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