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Police vow to keep access open to Ben-Gurion Airport during protest

Activists plan to blockade the roads leading to the international gateway.

Israelis protest at Ben-Gurion International Airport against the government's judicial reforms, March 15, 2023. Photo by Erik Marmor/Flash90.
Israelis protest at Ben-Gurion International Airport against the government's judicial reforms, March 15, 2023. Photo by Erik Marmor/Flash90.

Israeli police will focus on keeping the traffic flowing at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Monday during a planned protest against the government’s judicial reform initiative.

Central District Police chief Cmdr. Avi Biton and Amnon Cohen, the acting director of the Israel Airports Authority, held a meeting on Sunday to prepare for the demonstration. Protest organizers plan to blockade the roads leading to the country’s main international gateway.

Israelis protest outside Ben-Gurion Airport against the government’s planned judicial reforms, March 15, 2023. Photo by Erik Marmor/Flash90.

In public comments, Biton and Cohen both cited an emergency landing that took place on Saturday night when a New York-bound United Airlines flight was forced to return to Israel less than an hour after takeoff when pilots noticed a broken cockpit window.

“I call on protest organizers: Show responsibility so that a disaster will not happen that we will regret,” Biton said in a statement following the meeting.

Cohen earlier said that blocking the main route to Ben-Gurion could lead to an “international catastrophe,” stressing the importance of emergency vehicles being able to quickly get to the airport.

The police decided to restrict the protest to Terminal 1 and cap it at 5,000 people.

Organizers vowed to keep to their plan, calling for demonstrators to arrive at 5:30 p.m. in convoys and gather en masse at the larger Terminal 3 building, which is used for most international departures and arrivals.

Veterans of the IDF’s 1976 Entebbe rescue raid take part in a protest at Ben-Gurion Airport against the government’s judicial reforms, March 15, 2023. Credit: Flash90.

“It’s the right of citizens of the state to protest in every place against the dictatorship and this is exactly what will happen tomorrow,” the protest leadership said. “A nonviolent democratic protest will stop the dictatorial aims of the Israeli government. We expect the Israel Police to protect the sacred democratic right to protest.”

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 the airport on Monday.

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

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