By Yemeli Ortega
Jerusalem, July 11 (EFE).- Mass protests in Israel against the government’s moves to overhaul the country’s judicial system led to chaos Tuesday at the Ben Gurion international airport near Tel Aviv.
Police faced off against a sea of around 7,000 protesters who occupied the area outside the main entrance to the airport.
And although the protest unfolded without any serious incidents, the police officers formed several human chains in a bid to push back the demonstrators, who put up resistance amid pushing and shoving.
The demonstrators shouted “democracy,” banged drums and held up Israeli flags and signs denouncing the administration of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the most right-wing in Israel’s history.
They also blocked the lanes that taxis and buses normally use to pick up passengers.
Many arriving passengers were furious about the delays and tried to push their way through the crowd of protesters, some with crying children on their shoulders who were frightened by the chaotic scene.
One protester, a retired Israeli army soldier named Amir, said Netanyahu’s government was “very right extremist” and is “tearing us apart.”
“What we’re doing now is we’re fixing what they’re trying to destroy,” he added in reference to the day’s protests. “We’re not right. We’re not left. We are people who are fighting for our democracy, for the future of our children.”
“I was in the army. I was in the forces. I know how to fight. This is a fight without weapons. This is a fight for our rights, for our beliefs and for the way we think the country has to (be) run.”
Dozens of protesters had been detained earlier Tuesday after Israel’s parliament gave preliminary approval to a contentious bill restricting the oversight powers of the Supreme Court.
That controversial reform that still needs to pass two more readings would do away with the reasonability doctrine, which allowed the Supreme Court to review and overturn the government’s decisions.
The legislative approval prompted thousands of people out on the streets, demanding an immediate rollback of the controversial bill promoted by Netanyahu’s government.
Protesters blocked main highways, cutting off access to major cities like Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa in a new day of massive protests.
At least 70 people were arrested for disrupting public order during the protests, 45 of whom were released, according to police, who used water cannon and mounted forces to disperse the demonstrators.
“The Israel police will continue to allow freedom of expression and protest within the limits of the law, but will not allow the violation of public order, the disruption of traffic rules, and the risk to all road users,” a police statement said.
The day’s protests culminated with nighttime gatherings in different cities, including Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and Beer Sheva.
During the parliamentary session on Monday night, hundreds of anti-reform protesters gathered outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, with some attempting to breach the premises.
With 64 votes in favor (all members of the ruling coalition) and 56 against, the bill passed a first reading after a tumultuous plenary session that extended beyond midnight.
Following the vote, opposition lawmakers protested while coalition members celebrated the victory.