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Lapid rebuffs call to halt protests on Independence Day: ‘We’re not celebrating together’

Protesters against the government’s judicial reform push have launched a “Day of Paralysis.”

Opposition leader Yair Lapid speaks at a protest outside the Knesset in Jerusalem against the judicial reform program, Feb. 13, 2023. Photo by Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid speaks at a protest outside the Knesset in Jerusalem against the judicial reform program, Feb. 13, 2023. Photo by Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90.

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid refused on Thursday to sign a joint statement with Israeli Minister of Transportation, National Infrastructure and Road Safety Miri Regev calling for a halt to anti-judicial reform protests on Yom Ha’aztmaut, Israel’s Independence Day.

“We will not pretend that we are celebrating together and that everything is fine while the government is tearing apart the people of Israel and erasing democracy,” said Lapid in a statement.

The move comes after Knesset member Chili Tropper, a member of Benny Gantz’s National Unity Party, called on Wednesday for a pause to the demonstrations on Israel’s Memorial Day, held annually the day before Independence Day.

Gantz reportedly signed the agreement; however, Regev, a member of the ruling Likud Party, refused to sign unless the deal was extended to Independence Day as well.

Israel again braced for major disruptions across the country on Thursday as thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in opposition to the government’s judicial reform push.

With more than 150 demonstrations scheduled, the “Day of Paralysis” began in the morning with a protest at the Airport City business park adjacent to the eastern entrance to Ben-Gurion International Airport. The protesters were blocking the roads ahead of a conference featuring the participation of Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter and Economy Minister Nir Barkat. Israeli media reported that the protesters broke into the conference complex, shouting “shame.”

A reporter from conservative Israeli news station Channel 14 was harassed by protesters at the Airport City complex and was unable to finish her live report.

Protest leader Shikma Bressler was arrested during a demonstration outside of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems in Haifa, Israeli media reported. She was briefly detained at the police station in Kiryat Haim and released. Bressler was reportedly arrested for encouraging protesters to block the road, and her release was conditioned upon her not returning to the demonstration site for the next five days.

Protesters from Tel Aviv were expected to march into Bnei Brak, the largest haredi city in Israel, at 7 p.m. local time. Police were deployed to the city in the afternoon amid fears of clashes between secular and religious Israelis. Several streets in Bnei Brak were expected to be closed ahead of the march.

Demonstrators were also planning to again block Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from departing for a foreign diplomatic trip after unsuccessful attempts to prevent the premier from flying to Rome and Berlin over the past two weeks. Netanyahu is scheduled to depart for London on Thursday evening to meet with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

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