Palestinian suspects arrested among crowd in judicial reform protests

Israeli media reported that Netanyahu and his wife Sara Netanyahu are expected to travel to the resort town of Ramot in the southern Golan later this week.

Protest sign against the judicial reform, Kaplan, Tel-Aviv Saturday evening August 12, 2023. (photo credit: GILAD FURST)
Protest sign against the judicial reform, Kaplan, Tel-Aviv Saturday evening August 12, 2023.
(photo credit: GILAD FURST)

Anti-judicial reform protests were held across Israel on Saturday night, with further rallies scheduled this week in the Golan where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife are vacationing.

Thousands of people marched from Dizengoff street to Tel Aviv's Kaplan street, which has been a focal point for the protests for almost all of the weeks since the reform's announcement on January 4. The street was completely filled with protesters.

A large banner declared Netanyahu, Justice Minister Yariv Levin, Finance Minister Bezalel Somtrich, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, and Religious Zionist Party MK Simcha Rothman as "Israel's coup criminals." Some protesters later marched to the home of Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid attended the Kaplan rally saying that he and other protesters aimed to declare that "a government that will not obey the court, that will not obey the law, is an illegal government."

The Kaplan Force protest group said that it was fighting the coalition's attacks on key civil servants and liberal values. It said that a new haredi draft law and the cancelation of light rail train travel on Shabbat showed that the government wanted to turn Israel into a religious state like Turkey. The protest group also expressed concern about reports about how the air force and other military divisions were being damaged by reservists ending their volunteer service.

 Protestors at Kaplan, Tel-Aviv August 12, 2023. (credit: GILAD FURST)
Protestors at Kaplan, Tel-Aviv August 12, 2023. (credit: GILAD FURST)

Main protests across the country

Shikma Bressler, academic and major anti-Netanyahu protest leader, said that police volunteers and reservists were at the forefront of the protests, referencing the dismissal of volunteer Lior Lipshitz and new guidelines that would not permit police volunteers to criticize government policy while identifying with their position.

"At the forefront of the struggle are all of us who fully understand the price we will pay. The time to fight is now," said Bressler. "We have not yet begun to exhaust the potential that lies in the human capital that makes up our camp."

Three Palestinians arrested in judicial reform protests

Police warned the public of road closures and local commanders held situation assessments with Police Chief Kobi Shabtai near the epicenter of the demonstrations. Law enforcement also issued a statement calling for protesters not to use pyrotechnic smoke flares during the rallies, saying that they could damage the health of participants. During preparations for the protest, three Palestinians illegally residing in the country were arrested and taken into custody for questioning.

Last week, a potential terror attack at the protests was prevented after city inspector Chen Amir and his partner stopped two men on a motorcycle. Amir was killed by the terrorist, his partner neutralized the terrorist.

Protesters also marched from the prime minister's Balfour residence to the President's Residence in Jerusalem. On Friday, Likud MK Eli Dalal met with President Isaac Herzog to discuss how they could foster a broad agreement on the reform.

At the Nahalal junction in northern Israel, Movement for Quality Government In Israel head Dr. Eliad Shraga and retired Brig.-Gen. Amal Asad led 2,500 protesters. At the Elkosh junction, dozens of Druze demonstrators led by Dr. Amir Khnifess said that the government was failing to represent large swathes of the Israeli public, including "the Druze that were turned into second-class citizens."

Further protests are expected in the north on Sunday and Monday, at the Golan Heights town of Ramot where Netanyahu and his wife Sara are vacationing until Wednesday. Protest leaders said there would be "surprises" on Tuesday.

"The dictator's isolated vacation trips in the north continue," said Hofshei B'Artzenu, which has managed a protest HQ for the demonstrations. "If we don't rest, they won't either."

The protest leaders said that the protests were coordinated in advance with the residents of the moshav, and that the rallies would be a direct continuation of the protests in at Neve Ativ, where the Netanyahus were previously vacationing.

Neve Ativ had been placed under police closure during much of the prime minister's stay, and according to the protesters, the residents were afraid that the security precautions would impact the local mango harvest.