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Dozens detained as reform opponents try to blockade airport, grind Israel to halt

Police try to keep Ben-Gurion Airport working.

Activists try to shut down Ben-Gurion International Airport, July 3, 2023. Photo by Yossi Zeliger/TPS.
Activists try to shut down Ben-Gurion International Airport, July 3, 2023. Photo by Yossi Zeliger/TPS.

Dozens were detained as thousands of protesters attempted to bar access to Ben-Gurion Airport on Monday, in the latest effort by opponents of the government’s judicial reform initiative to bring Israel to a halt.

Organizers called for demonstrators to arrive in convoys and gather en masse at Terminal 3, which is used for most international departures and arrivals.

Demonstrators blocked roads leading in and out of the country’s principal international gateway, prompting police to use riot dispersal means.

Authorities were also seen ejecting protesters from the airport’s arrivals hall.

At least four protesters were arrested for blocking the primary road to the hall.

“We once again emphasize that people can exercise their basic right to protest, but we will carry out enforcement to ensure emergency services maintain access to Ben-Gurion Airport and in order to maintain public order,” said the police in a statement.

The Movement for Quality Government in Israel, which has spearheaded the anti-reform movement, wrote a letter to Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai demanding that authorities act with restraint on Monday.

Earlier in the day, hundreds of protesters blocked access roads to Haifa Port, preventing vehicles from reaching Israel’s largest cargo link.

Last week, Transport Minister Miri Regev and Tourism Minister Haim Katz called on National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara to prevent disruptions at Ben-Gurion Airport.

“I will not accept this reality and the way in which they are harassing and disrupting an entire country. It is time to restore order and stop disrupting the lives of citizens,” Regev said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week he is rebooting judicial reform legislation but will drop the most controversial part of the bill, the “override clause.”

The override clause, which would give the Israeli parliament the power to reverse the Supreme Court when it strikes down laws as “unconstitutional” is “out,” Netanyahu said in a June 29 interview with The Wall Street Journal.

Although only one aspect of judicial reform, “override” has been used pars pro toto to refer to the entire package of legislation, which includes changing the way judges are selected, reducing the power of the attorney general and other legal advisers, and abolishing the Supreme Court’s use of the standard of “reasonableness” to cancel government decisions.

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