Traffic Blocked as ‘Day of Resistance’ Against Judicial Reforms Intensifies


Israelis protest at Ben Gurion Airport on Thursday. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)

Protesters on Thursday were intensifying their opposition to a government plan to overhaul the judiciary, with plans to block Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s route to the airport ahead of an official trip overseas and as the U.S. defense secretary was visiting. The Prime Minister is expected to arrive at the airport by helicopter in order to avoid traffic jams.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who also came to the airport, criticized the protesters for blocking the roads and preventing people from getting to hospitals or flying on vacations. 

“I am the last person to speak out against protests. You are allowed to demonstrate, I demonstrated for decades. Protest, shout, this is democracy. Anarchy must not be allowed, this is my directive to the police, it is currently being implemented here and I hope it will continue,” he said. 

The uproar over the legal overhaul has plunged Israel into one of its worst domestic crises.

The visit Thursday by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was also being affected by the protests. An Israeli official said that Austin’s meetings had been moved to a factory near the airport due to the expected disruptions. The protest movement has been centered in central Tel Aviv, near the Defense Ministry.

On Thursday morning, military reservist protesters barricaded the Yerushalayim offices of the Kohelet Policy Forum, a conservative think tank that has helped craft the overhaul, with barbed wire and sandbags, and hung a banner outside reading, “Kohelet is tearing Israel apart.”

In the meantime, in Haifa, naval reservists launched a flotilla to disrupt operations at Haifa’s port.

“This is an emergency and this is our call – SOS – a maritime distress call to save the ship of Israeli democracy and stop it from becoming a state without checks and balances,” the flotilla organizers said in a statement.

Traffic in other parts of the country was also impacted by the protests, with police reporting 14 arrests so far. Nearly 3,000 Israeli security officers have been deployed across the country in response to the protests, according to media estimates.

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