Judicial reform in Israel: at least 37 detained for a protest at the Tel Aviv airport

Anti-government protesters converged on Monday at Israel’s Ben Gurion airport (REUTERS / Ammar Awad) (AMMAR AWAD /)

thousands of israelis blocked traffic and hindered movement at the country’s main international airport on Monday, in the latest mass demonstration against Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial judicial reform plan that has divided the nation. Some of the protesters scuffled with police who tried to prevent them from blocking access to the terminal for most flights in and out of the airport.

Protesting against a plan to reform the judicial system, dozens of people entered the arrivals hall dancing and shouting into megaphones: “Democracy!”. The police officers finally escorted them to the exit.

Outside, the sidewalk was packed with protesters carrying flags, honking horns and beating drums. A cordon of policemen lined the road as vehicles slowly passed by. Mounted police were called to stand guard. At one point they separated the mass of people so that an airport bus could complete its route.

Earlier in the day, protesters briefly closed off access to a major Israeli seaport.

The Ben Gurion handles 90,000 passengers per day in July (REUTERS / Ammar Awad)
The Ben Gurion handles 90,000 passengers per day in July (REUTERS/Ammar Awad) (AMMAR AWAD/)

The legislative push, revealed after Netanyahu regained power in late December, sparked unprecedented protests, raised concerns for Israel’s democratic health and hurt the economy.

The police have vowed to keep Ben Gurion running. Thirty-seven protesters were arrested.

An ad circulated online called for protesters to arrive at Ben Gurion with suitcases and passports, suggesting a ruse to elude hundreds of police officers deployed as reinforcements.

Ben Gurion Airport Drive 90,000 passengers per day in the high season (July), a spokesman said. Police Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir had said that any attempt to paralyze him would constitute “harm to national security.”

Police mounted on horseback were called to stand guard (REUTERS/Ammar Awad)
Police mounted on horseback were called to stand guard (REUTERS/Ammar Awad) (AMMAR AWAD/)

Netanyahu dampened some of the furor in March by pausing the legislation and holding compromise talks with the opposition. Those negotiations proved unsuccessful, and he is now seeking what he considers a reduced version of the revision. The opposition says the changes remain dangerous.

Just today, Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition is trying to push a bill that if approved would eliminate the doctrine of reasonablenesswhich allows the Supreme Court to review and reverse any government decision based on whether or not it is reasonable.

The police have promised to keep the Ben Gurion in operation (REUTERS / Ammar Awad)
The police have promised to keep Ben Gurion in operation (REUTERS/Ammar Awad) (AMMAR AWAD/)

According to detractors, the judicial reform would remove powers from the Supreme Court and would undermine the independence of the judiciary in Israel, which would end the formal democratic bases of the State.

Protesters had previously flocked to Ben Gurion in March, attempting to disrupt a visit by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and preventing Netanyahu from taking off for talks in Italy. Austin ended up cutting his visit short while Netanyahu flew to Rome after arriving at Ben Gurion by helicopter.

(With information from Reuters, AP and EFE)

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