Judicial reform protests resumed at full force on Wednesday morning, as protesters disrupted traffic around Ben-Gurion Airport ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s state visit to Berlin.
Shortly after midday, thousands of protesters traversed the access roads leading to the airport, as well as inside Airport City itself.
As of early Wednesday evening, police had given out approximately 30 tickets for blocking emergency routes at the airport, they said.
In reaction to the protests, Netanyahu’s flight was postponed until later in the afternoon, Kan news reported.
“Netanyahu will encounter us at every corner, flight or conference that he goes to,” the protest organizers said in a message ahead of the demonstration. “We will not allow him to destroy the dream of generations and the Zionist vision, and turn the State of Israel into a dictatorship.”
The protest organizers have clarified that they will be blocking only the roads, and will allow train access to the airport to continue as normal, allowing travelers to reach their flights on time.
Operation Entebbe vets take up the cause
Veterans of Operation Entebbe, which was led by Yonatan Netanyahu – the prime minister’s brother who was killed during the operation – announced their intention to join the protest as part of what they called “Operation Benjamin.”
“Almost 50 years after that operation, today we attack an airport again, democratically and non-violently, with the aim of freeing a prime minister kidnapped by extremists and with him an entire country rushing toward a dangerous coup d’état,” the protest organizers stated. “Then, we embarked on Operation Yonatan; today, we embark on Operation Benjamin – [to] free Netanyahu from his kidnappers.”
They drove to the airport in a convoy led by a black Mercedes, similar to the vehicle that was famously used during Operation Entebbe, in which IDF commandos – including Sayeret Matkal, the unit in which both Netanyahu brothers served – rescued Jews who were kidnapped by members of the PFLP terror group in 1976. Yoni commanded the operation and was killed in action. (They served several years together, along with their brother Iddo, although not during the operation.)
Benny Davidson, one of the kidnapped and rescued Israelis, joined the IDF veterans in their protest. “These [guys] came to take us home 47 years ago,” he said. “Now the people are taking to the streets to bring Israel home again. Now we all are Sayeret Matkal.”
Opposition leader and Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid supported the airport protests in a Wednesday morning interview on 103 FM, adding that “what is needed is for the prime minister to stop [the judicial reform]. The prime minister’s convoy should stop on the way to the Knesset to stop this legislation.”
Lapid especially decried the refusal of the government to stop legislation while holding talks. “The people are falling apart because of the madness of the government. If they continue to legislate, what will happen? Will we get a proposal [for compromise] that will not be enacted?” he asked.
“This is an attempt at non-stop misrepresentation by the government... If they turn the committee for appointing judges into a committee for appointing cronies, we will really be at the end of democracy,” he said.
“In [MK Simcha] Rothman’s [Constitution, Law and Justice] committee, they throw people out in a way that is unheard of and they legislate whatever they want,” he lamented. “[Justice Minister Yariv] Levin and Rothman have lost their sight. It’s complete chaos; it’s anarchy. If they don’t stop now, we’re headed for terrible chaos. If the legislation is not stopped, there is nothing to agree to.”
Appeal sent to German ambassador
Last Thursday, a similar protest was held in and around the airport, ahead of the prime minister’s state visit to Italy. As a result of the protests, Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, arrived at the airport directly from Jerusalem via helicopter.
On Tuesday, some 1,000 Israeli authors and academics penned a letter to the German ambassador to Israel, asking that Netanyahu’s invitation to Germany be rescinded.
Among the signatories were professors and academics from various Israeli institutions, including the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, the Weizmann Institute of Science, the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University.