“There can be no effective protest without disturbing the public order,” Israel’s Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara said on Sunday, speaking at the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded by saying, “That’s a shocking sentence. Are you saying that besieging a barbershop from inches away is legitimate,” referring to his wife’s experience on March 1, when she had to be rescued by hundreds of police after being trapped in a hair salon for hours by anti-judicial reform protesters in Tel Aviv.
Government ministers accused Baharav-Miara of failing to bring indictments against those anti-judicial reform protesters who broke the law.
Netanyahu said at the onset of the Cabinet session, “The government requests a report on what the enforcement policy is in relation to the law-breaking that takes place during the demonstrations and harms millions of citizens. It cannot be that there will be law enforcement [only] on one side. We will demand answers.”
According to numbers provided by the Attorney General’s Office, only six indictments were handed down out of 572 arrests. Those six were for assaulting police officers.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and Justice Minister Yariv Levin asked how many protesters were investigated “on suspicion of criminal conspiracy for organizing riots.” The answer was “Not one.”
“Simply a disgrace,” Ben-Gvir said. “There is no enforcement.”
Netanyahu agreed, castigating Baharav-Miara: “You are doing nothing to counter those who incite disobedience … in the Israel Defense Forces and those who are promoting sedition.
“This is total inaction,” he added. “This is a threat to national security.”
Levin said that in past protests, for example those against the 2015 disengagement from the Gaza Strip, the policy was clear: “Stop, evacuate, file indictments.” But road-blocking has become a matter of routine during the current protests, and Ben-Gurion Airport “looks like a battlefield.”
Likud member of Knesset Dudi Amsalem, who holds several portfolios, and Transport Minister Miri Regev both suggested that Baharav-Miara be fired.
“The airport is not a public area, it is an important security infrastructure for the State of Israel,” Regev said.
“I will not accept under any circumstances harming the airport and Israel’s aviation routine, or preventing flights from taking off, or any such blockades. I request that the selective enforcement be stopped. … The public good, freedom of movement and national security are more important,” she added.
“I hope the government doesn’t expect the law enforcement system to meet ‘quotas’ of arrests or indictments against the protesters,” said Baharav-Miara.
Asked Regev: “If the attorney general supports and enables the violation of public order contrary to the positions of the Supreme Court and attorneys general in the past, then what is the role of elected officials?
“What is the role of the government? If the attorney general decides everything but is unable to help the government function, then maybe she should be fired,” Regev added.
Also attending the special session with Baharav-Miara were State Attorney Amit Aisman (the head of the prosecution), Police Deputy Chief of Investigations and Intelligence Yoav Talem and Deputy Attorney General Gil Limon.
Netanyahu’s government has complained in the past about the attorney general’s failure to indict those breaking the law while protesting its judicial reform program.
On June 27, following an hours-long protest in front of his home in Modi’in, Levin said the “most outrageous thing is the selective enforcement.”
Because today’s protesters are on the side of the judicial system, “no indictments have been filed against them to date and they have been given the green light,” he said.
Protests against judicial reform have continued for 27 weeks. They have involved road-blockings, attempts to shutter Israel’s main airport, demonstrations outside ministers’ homes, including attempts to prevent them from leaving their neighborhoods, and refusals to serve by IDF reservists.