Israel's gov't planning to restrict protests with heavy fines, easier arrests - report

Police will be able to heavily fine protesters if they "disobey police instructions" or do not agree to leave the area.

Tens of thousands of Israelis protest the government's judicial reform in Tel Aviv's Habima Square seen in this drone footage taken January 14, 2023 (photo credit: Amir Goldstein)
Tens of thousands of Israelis protest the government's judicial reform in Tel Aviv's Habima Square seen in this drone footage taken January 14, 2023
(photo credit: Amir Goldstein)

The National Security and Justice Ministries are working on a new law that would allow the government to further restrict protests, KAN news reported on Thursday.

The law will include measures such as requiring police permits for any protest including more than 100 people and allowing police officers to kick anyone out of a protest if "their presence could disrupt the peace" for three hours. If even one person is disorderly in the protest, police will be able to disband the entire protest.

Police will also be able to heavily fine protesters if they "disobey police instructions" or do not agree to leave the area. The fines will range between NIS 1,500-5,000.

The new law will also require any protests held in front of the homes of public figures to be held at least 100 meters away from the home.

The National Security Ministry told KAN that "The issue is at the stage of formulating a government bill, and, among other things, a dialogue was held with the Justice Ministry to examine the various issues related to the matter. There is no room for a detailed ministerial comment on the content of the intra-governmental dialogue."

 Israeli Police use a water cannon to disperse demonstrators during a protest against Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem in 2020. Are these images coming back? (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) Israeli Police use a water cannon to disperse demonstrators during a protest against Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem in 2020. Are these images coming back? (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

After the report was published, Ben-Gvir decided to halt the planned legislation and claimed that he was not familiar with it, despite an earlier statement by his ministry confirming that the ministry he heads was working on it.

The department of counseling and legislation in the Justice Ministry told KAN that "The issue is currently being advanced under the leadership of the Justice Ministry, due to its focus - the right to demonstrate, and the need to regulate various aspects of the issue, some of which are not related to police work."

Additional groups say they intend to join weekend protests

Anti-government protests planned for Saturday night are expected to be even larger than the demonstrations conducted last Saturday, in which an estimated 100,000 people took part.

Multiple organizations have announced their intention to join the protests, including groups of doctors, lawyers, hi-tech workers, students, LGBTQ+ activists, the Kibbutz Movement and IDF reservists.

The various organizations announced on Thursday that they had formed a unified headquarters for the protests.

Ben-Gvir, Netanyahu express outrage at anti-government protests

The report comes just over a week after National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir called on police to arrest any protesters who block roads or cause unrest at protests.

During a meeting of Ben-Gvir's Otzma Yehudit party last week, he stated "I am in favor of demonstrations and freedom of speech, but we also saw severe damage to democracy, incitement against [Justice] Minister Yariv Levin and road blocks.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also expressed outrage at the protests, accusing protesters of incitement and intimidation and of being funded by foreign entities.