Protestors target Israel’s main airport, block roads in ‘Day of Disruption’
Tel Aviv, Mar 9 (EFE).- Tens of thousands of protestors on Thursday flooded the streets of Israel’s largest cities to protest the government’s controversial judicial reforms and attempted to stop prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu leaving the country from Tel Aviv airport.
According to a police spokesperson, at least 13 people have been arrested in clashes with police across the country as opponents to the coalition right-wing government’s proposed overhaul of the justice system aimed to bring Israel to a standstill on what has been dubbed a “Day of Disruption.”
In Tel Aviv, protestors gathered at Ben Gurion airport and obstructed roads intent on blocking Netanyahu from taking a flight to Rome, forcing the PM to be airlifted to the airport by helicopter.
“Liar dictator, don’t come back here,” protestors shouted as Netanyahu departed for Italy, where he is scheduled to meet the far-right Italian prime minister, Giorgia Meloni.
“I hope this criminal leaves the country and never comes back, we don’t want him anymore,” Yair Azgad, a 70-year-old Israeli from Hadera, told Efe.
Azgad explained that he was protesting against the government’s planned judicial reforms which he said would turn Israel into “potential dictatorship.”
Netanyahu had to change the time and place of a meeting with the United States defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, on Thursday due to the protests, a source from the US embassy in Jerusalem told Efe.
Israel’s ultra-orthodox national security minister, Itamar Ben Gvir, went to the airport to make sure it remained operational and to oversee a police operation to disperse protestors and unblock roads.
Protestors elsewhere also blocked roads and access to cities in Jerusalem, Haifa and Ranana.
In Haifa, home to Israel’s largest port, soldiers and army reservists of the Brothers in Arms protest group blocked marine traffic saying “in a dictatorship, the sea is closed.”
“For decades we have been sailing day and night and guarding the main lifeline of the State of Israel,” the group said in a statement.
“We chose to disrupt operations at Haifa port to call in a clear voice to the Israeli government to stop the uncontrolled voyage that will cause the State of Israel to run aground,” the group added.
The reforms would give the coalition government, led by Netanyahu and his hardline religious and far-right allies, five of the nine seats on the Judicial Selection Committee, with just a simple majority needed to appoint judges for all Israeli courts.
Justice minister Yariv Levin’s plans also include a clause that would allow a simple parliamentary majority to overturn a Supreme Court ruling.
The Supreme Court currently has powers to overthrow regulations that it considers contrary to basic Israeli law.
Opponents of the reforms say the new bill would erode Israel’s separation of powers and weaken the foundations of the country’s democracy.
Netanyahu’s reforms have polarized Israeli society and sparked the largest protests in years. EFE