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Anti-reform protesters launch ‘Day of Resistance’ across Israel

Some three dozen demonstrators have been arrested, one was accidently hit by a car.

Opponents to judicial reform in Israel block an entrance to the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, July 18, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.
Opponents to judicial reform in Israel block an entrance to the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, July 18, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.

One person was injured and at least 37 were arrested on Tuesday after protesters in Israel launched another “Day of Resistance” over the judicial reform effort of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

A 40-year-old woman was seriously injured after being hit by a passing car on Route 531 near the Herzliya Mizrah interchange, the Magen David Adom emergency service said. Channel 12 reported that she was hit after a group of protesters went down to the road to block it, with police saying the collision was unintentional.

MDA medics provided treatment on the scene before she was evacuated to Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva with “multiple systemic injuries.”

Police determined that the incident was unintentional after detaining a driver on suspicion of hitting the woman. The preliminary investigation showed that the woman was standing on the road next to her vehicle when she was accidentally struck.

The Israel Medical Association announced on Tuesday that a two-hour “warning strike” was set for Wednesday from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Doctors will work in an emergency mode with all non-urgent matters coming to a halt.

Should the proposed judicial reform legislation move forward, the doctors union said that the healthcare system would shut down for a full day either on Thursday or on Sunday, with many appointments expected to be canceled.

By 7 a.m., thousands of protesters had blocked major roads, including the main coastal highway that connects Tel Aviv and Haifa. Both sides of Route 2 were blocked at Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael, causing long traffic jams in either direction.

Police dispersed the protesters and reopened Route 2. Two suspects were arrested for disrupting public order.

The protesters waved Israeli flags as they blocked traffic. One massive poster hung from an overpass read: “Netanyahu is Taking Apart the Nation.”

Protesters block Route 2 between Haifa and Hadera, July 18, 2023. Credit: Israel Police Spokesperson.

Route 6 was also blocked briefly before police reopened it to traffic.

As of 12 p.m., 14 suspects had been arrested in the central region of the country, three were detained in the Tel Aviv area and two were arrested in the coastal region.

Organizers are holding mass demonstrations across the country on Tuesday in the run-up to the second reading in the Knesset plenum this week of a bill seeking to annul the Supreme Court’s use of the “reasonableness” criteria to overturn legislation and governmental decisions.

While protesters have blocked major highways and interchanges for months and disrupted traffic at Ben-Gurion Airport several times, on Tuesday they are also trying to close down train stations.

At Tel Aviv’s HaShalom railway station, authorities prevented people from entering after dozens of protesters crowded the platforms. At the nearby HaHagana station, six people were arrested for blocking train doors.

Outside Herzliya’s train station, two protesters were arrested for public disturbances.

Meanwhile, in central Tel Aviv, hundreds gathered at Habima Square and police announced the closures to traffic of Kaplan Street and Menachem Begin Road due to the protests.

The Brothers in Arms group of reservists protested near an entrance to the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, chanting, “[Defense Minister Yoav] Gallant is destroying the People’s Army!” in Hebrew and linking themselves together with plastic tubes on their arms.

Amid continuing threats by reservists not to serve in protest of the government’s judicial reform initiative, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday that “anyone who calls for not showing up [for duty] harms the IDF and harms the security of the state.”

Protesters also blocked an entrance to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.

Police also arrested one person on suspicion of attacking a protester in Tel Aviv. Video circulating appeared to show a helmeted motorcycle rider scuffling with demonstrators.

Many demonstrators converged on the rabbinical courts in Tel Aviv and nearby Rehovot. In Tel Aviv, protesters blocked the entrance to the court on David Hamelech Street and pounded on the doors, which had to be locked. A female protester was detained by police after spray-painting the word “Shame” on the side of the building.

“The management of the rabbinical courts protests the targeting of the courts for political protest and the violence of the demonstrators and attempts to hurt security guards. The management condemns the disruption of the proceedings, during which demonstrators tried to dislodge the doors of the building and cause damage to it,” the rabbinical courts said in a statement.

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel David Lau said that he “vigorously protests against the unprecedented and irresponsible behavior of a small handful of people preventing litigants whose case is to be discussed today from entering the court.

“This is illegal and undemocratic anarchy. The judges will not be deterred and will continue to work on behalf of the citizens of Israel. I appeal to the law enforcement authorities to treat these acts with the full severity of the law,” Lau continued.

A group of protesters held morning prayers in front of World Likud chairman and Knesset member Danny Danon’s home in Ra’anana.

The harassment of coalition lawmakers has been a running story throughout the months of protests. On Monday, it was reported that a woman identified as Efrat Marmour will be charged with attacking a public official after video showed her hitting Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter in the head with a flagpole at a protest in March.

On Wednesday, the ruling coalition is expected to vote in favor of establishing a parliamentary committee to investigate the police reaction to the anti-reform protests including the issue of selective enforcement. Knesset members Zvi Sukkot (Religious Zionism Party) and Boaz Bismuth (Likud) initiated the committee.

MK Uriel Busso (Shas), chairman of the Knesset Health Committee, threatened to impose sanctions on the striking doctors.

Doctors and nurses strike outside Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem demanding increased state budgets, August 25, 2021. Staff at public hospitals all over Israel were protesting the lack of budget for the Israeli healthcare system. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

“In the private clinics and private hospitals, the doctors continue to provide full services. It is not possible for you to mount and conduct the protest on the backs of the citizens of Israel with an emphasis on the disadvantaged,” Busso said.

“As the chairman of the Health Committee I announce—whoever plays politics with public medicine and the patients who need it will find all the members of the committee facing him with the imposition of sanctions as much as required. The balance of cooperation between the committee and the Israel Medical Association will change.”

Speaking at a memorial service for Ze’ev Jabotinsky, founder of the Revisionist wing of the Zionist movement, on Tuesday, Prime Minister Netanyahu told attendees that Jabotinsky “believed in the unity of the nation — not having some worth more than others.”

“Today there are those who believe that part of the nation are worth more than others and they should read Jabotinsky,” Netanyahu said, in an apparent reference to the anti-reform protesters.

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