Ex-Israeli PM Ehud Olmert backs civil disobedience over judicial reform

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert shares insights on security, protests, and democracy as he responds to criticism of his support for nonviolent civil disobedience.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert

Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert was interviewed this Sunday morning on Army Radio, discussing various topics on the political and diplomatic agenda, including the ongoing security situation and the protest against judicial reform, as well as the expected demonstration tomorrow at Ben-Gurion Airport. 

Olmert first weighed in on the security situation on the Lebanese border. Specifically, the former prime minister addressed reports that the terrorist organization Hezbollah set up two tents on Israeli territory in the Israeli enclave on Mount Dov, beyond the Blue Line.

"We did not need to act differently than we typically do," Olmert told Army Radio.

"As is well remembered from the Second Lebanon War, for 17 years there have been no shooting or violent actions from the Lebanese side, and I estimate that this will continue."

He continued, "We need to be prepared, but in my opinion, there is currently no reason to open fire. What hampers deterrence is the leniency and weakness of this government. Between what it says and what it is capable of doing, the gap is enormous. It is not related to the existence of the tents, but rather to the way the government has been conducting itself over time, in all matters, including security." 

 Anti-judicial reform protest in Haifa, July 3, 2023. (credit: GIL LEVIN)
Anti-judicial reform protest in Haifa, July 3, 2023. (credit: GIL LEVIN)

What does Israel's former prime minister think of judicial reform protests?

He next commented on the expected anti-judicial reform demonstration on Monday at Ben-Gurion Airport.

"I support the demonstration, and I don't think any of the organizers have talked about disruptions at the airport or impeding its ability to function. These are things that opponents of the protests are saying, but it is not what the protesters themselves are saying," Olmert explained to Army Radio.

"Their intention is to hold a demonstration 'without provocation.' The purpose of these demonstrations is to make it clear to the government that there is a strong movement that is the backbone of Israeli society... and these protests want to make the government uneasy."

He added that: "There is no intention to do anything violent or that violates the law, and I am confident that there will be no violence. They should look at what is happening in Paris and understand the tremendous difference."

The former Israeli prime minister then addressed his calls for nonviolent civil disobedience.

"I really hope that the police will not knock on my doors, and if it happens, I will act as a responsible person should. I just think that the mere possibility that this is brought up, that the police will knock on the doors of people like Ehud Barak and Yair Golan who have held crucial [government and security] positions, for things they say that do not contain any incitement or threat, while government ministers are the ones speaking in a derogatory manner and saying that we should be seen as traitors, to think that in the end, the police will come to question people like us - this is unthinkable," Olmert explained.

"In addition, the talks today about allowing the TikTok clown, [Itamar] Ben-Gvir, to decide on administrative detentions according to his own discretion, is the pinnacle of the threat to democracy, it is unbearable."