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Anti-gov’t protesters deface Knesset, clash with security officers

Organizers of a four-day protest outside the legislature canceled Wednesday’s final installment amid an uproar over violence.

Families of Israelis held hostage in Gaza protest in the Knesset Plenum Hall in Jerusalem, April 3, 2024. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Families of Israelis held hostage in Gaza protest in the Knesset Plenum Hall in Jerusalem, April 3, 2024. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

Protesters and relatives of hostages caused chaos on Wednesday by throwing yellow paint at glass windows in the gallery overlooking the Knesset Plenum Hall.

(The color has become associated with the campaign to free the captives.)

Security personnel clashed with the demonstrators before escorting them off the premises.

The incident came hours after Israeli officials from across the political spectrum criticized Tuesday night’s anti-government demonstration in Jerusalem in which protesters called to “burn down the country” and attempted to storm Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence.

Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) chief Ronen Bar issued a rare warning Wednesday morning, describing the chaos as “beyond acceptable protest.”

“There is a clear line between legitimate and illegal protest. This worrying trend could lead to dangerous places,” he said.

Meanwhile, the main organizers of a four-day mass protest outside of the Knesset canceled Wednesday’s final installment of demonstrations amid the uproar over violence.

“The purpose for this event was to: 1. Demand an immediate agreement to release the hostages [in Gaza]; 2. To stop the Knesset members from going on recess in these awful and dangerous times; and 3. To demand elections,” a spokesperson for the event told JNS.

“Since the Knesset members decided to go on recess anyway, they will not be there for the protest, and definitely will not be there to help with the hostage situation and the elections. It would be like protesting in front of an empty building—no point in exhausting the families and the people who come,” she added.

Initially, the spokesperson said, the plan was to scale back the main protest slated for 7 p.m. by holding a smaller one elsewhere at 4 p.m, but organizers eventually decided to nix the entire proceedings.

The spokesperson added that it was still possible spontaneous protests would take place outside the parliament.

Another protest organizer downplayed the cancelation to JNS, arguing that “not much” was planned for Wednesday in any case and that the event will instead move to Tel Aviv on Saturday night.

This past Saturday, tens of thousands of demonstrators calling for early elections and the release of the hostages took to the streets of Tel Aviv and other cities across Israel. Sixteen people were arrested for blocking roads and violating public order, according to police, who used water cannons to disperse demonstrators.

On Tuesday night, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak told JNS that his goal was to use mass protests as a pressure lever to bring about early elections to replace the government.

Netanyahu has rejected the idea that elections be held during the war, saying it would paralyze hostage negotiations and prevent the defeat of Hamas.

“The first who would welcome this is Hamas, and that says everything,” he said.

“I’m committed to bringing everyone back, all of our men and women, soldiers, civilians—I will not leave anyone behind. God willing, we will continue to work, continue to fight, and we will win together,” said Netanyahu.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office told JNS on Monday that the government continues to believe that sustained military pressure against Hamas in Gaza is necessary to secure the release of the captives.

“We believe that pursuing the diplomatic avenue combined with heavy military pressure on Hamas is what worked best back in November and brought the release of [more than 100] hostages [as part of a ceasefire agreement], and we are still pursuing these two paths,” the spokesperson said.

“Hamas’s outlandish demands show they are not serious about the negotiations; we are not going to cave to each and every one of their whims,” she added. “Obviously, there are no good solutions, only trade-offs, but we were willing to go to several lengths while Hamas has rejected any kind of U.S. proposal for a compromise so far.”

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