Israel Protest | 130,000 Rally in Tel Aviv, Other Israeli Cities Against Far-right Gov't

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Tens of thousands of protesters in one of two anti-government rallies in central Tel Aviv, today.
Tens of thousands of protesters in one of two anti-government rallies in central Tel Aviv, today.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Updates
Yael Freidson

Hundreds of protesters march towards the Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem

Hundreds of protesters are making their way to the Prime Minister's Residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem. The building is currently closed due to renovations, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family do not live there.

However, the protesters passed by the Netanyahu's private residence and were stopped several hundred meters away by police in accordance with the agreement between the demonstration's organizers and the police.

Bar Peleg

Former defense minister and Israeli army chief of staff Ya’alon: Black flag is flying over court overhaul legislation

Moshe Ya'alon at a protest against the far-right government in Tel Aviv, on Sunday.Credit: Moti Milrod

Speaking at the protest in Tel Aviv on Saturday evening against the government’s plans to expand its authority over Israel’s judiciary, former Israeli defense minister and army chief of staff Moshe Yaalon took Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to task over the plan.

In a reference to the corruption trial that Netanyahu is currently in the midst of, Ya’alon said: “A country in which the prime minister appoints all the judges and is responsible for promoting and firing them has a name. It’s called a dictatorship. When this prime minster is also a defendant whom the State of Israel is accusing of serious crimes, it has a name. It’s called a dictatorship of criminals.”

Referring to a speech a little over a week ago in which the president of the Supreme Court blasted the government’s plans to curb the court’s authority, Ya’alon said, “Supreme Court President Esther Hayut’s speech was a watershed in the current campaign. Through her remarks, the head of the judicial branch actually ruled that the criminal legislation that the criminal defendant’s government and his criminal and wicked colleagues are plotting inflicts a fatal blow to democracy and tramples upon the Declaration of Independence through which the State of Israel was founded and for which thousands of fighters sacrificed their lives in the War of Independence.”

“This is legislation with a black flag flying over it,” Ya’alon said, referring to Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s plan to weaken the power of the judiciary. “Legislation that turns Israel into a dictatorship in which a criminal defendant appoints judges is patently illegal legislation.”

“The Jewish people paid a heavy price for the fact that in democratic elections in Germany a government came to power that eliminated democracy, and the first thing that it eliminated was the basic democratic principle of the independence of the judicial branch,” Ya’alon told the protest on Kaplan Street in the heart of Tel Aviv.

Allison Kaplan Sommer

In an emotional speech, former attorney-general Dina Zilber led the crowd in a chant of 'We refuse to be silent'

A protester at an anti-gov't rally in Tel Aviv, on Saturday.Credit: Judy Maltz

“The people are here, voting with their feet and the message is clear. Enough! The people are speaking out on these irreversible actions being taken," former attorney general Dana Zilber said at Tel Aviv's rally on Saturday. "It’s not only our right to speak out against them, it’s our obligation. Who doesn’t speak out now, who doesn’t protect democracy, an independent judiciary, a free press, in the future, won’t be counted.”

Israeli ambassador to Canada resigns due to incompatibility with policies of new government

Israel's Ambassador to Canada Ronen Hoffman, appointed by former prime minister Yair Lapid, announced on Saturday that he will be resigning from his post this summer saying his personal and professional integrity compels him to terminate his position.

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen accepted Hoffman's resignation after sending a written statement saying that in view of the new government's policies, and because it is political appointment, he can no longer continue in his post.

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Israeli author David Grossman to 130,000 protesters: 'This is a fight for Israel's destiny'

David Grossman speaking at the anti-gov't rally in Tel Aviv, on Saturday.Credit: Moti Milrod

"I keep meeting more and more young people who don't want to live here anymore. I understand this position, but it's painful," renowned Israeli author David Grossman said at the rally in Tel Aviv on Saturday.

"If so many Israelis are feeling as internal exiles at their home, it's clear that something has gone wrong," he said, adding that “Israel should be the only place in the world that Jews feel at home … if young Israelis don’t feel at home here anymore, something is going terribly wrong. We are fighting against cynical politicians, some of them under criminal indictments."

“We have here in the streets representatives of many groups who don’t usually come out to protest, but they are here. Even sworn right-wingers" Grossman says. "This immensely diverse group is prepared to put aside its differences, and fight this existential fight."

"In its 75th year, Israel is in a fateful struggle for its character, for its democracy and for the status of its rule of law."

Grossman referred to Justice Minister Yariv Levin's plan to weaken the judicial system, saying that "behind the unilateral and predatory plan of the 'judicial reform' we find our house on fire. We understand that if the status of the rule of law is severely damaged, it will gradually crumble, as will all other other important struggles."

Afterwards, Grossman turned to the audience and said: "And because of all these things, I refuse to be an exile in my country, and I think you are too. Otherwise we wouldn't be here. Protesters, refuse to be passive, refuse to be indifferent. Refuse to be exiles in our country. Now is the time, friends, the dark time. Now is the moment to stand up and shout - this land is in our soul."

David Grossman is an Israeli author, recipient of the Sapir award and Bialik award for his literary work, and the Erasmus Prize for his political writing. He has lost his son Uri in the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.

Nati Yefet

Arad Mayor: 'This is not a legal reform but a regime change'

Arad Mayor Nissan Ben Hamo spoke during the demonstration in Be'er Sheva saying, "I am here because I am deeply concerned about the processes taking place in the State of Israel. The legal system is the Iron Dome that protects the citizen from governmental decisions." Ben Hamo added that the judicial reform plan would give the government absolute power, saying "No one will oversee the government and every time the law bothers them, they will simply change it."

"This is not a legal reform but a change of regime and the abolition of the Declaration of Independence. This will cut Israel off from the family of liberal countries" he added.

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Israeli LGBTQ rights leader: 'We will not move back a millimeter'

In a speech at the anti-government rally in Tel Aviv, chairwoman of the Aguda (“Israel's LGBT Task Force”) Hila Peer said: "We are here to say unequivocally to the government — we will not move back a millimeter. Neither in [our] rights nor in the personal safety of each and every one of us."

Protesters at the anti-government rally in Tel Aviv, today.Credit: Judy Maltz

"In the face of all the hatred and LGBT-phobia that gets a seat at the government's table, and in the face of the attempt to change the system of the government so that it tramples on our rights and those of any other minority, we stand as a wall and defend democracy so that it protects us. This is our life and we will fight in any way necessary until we can live as equal citizens," she said.

Josh Breiner

120,000 people rally across Tel Aviv, police say

Author David Grossman arriving at the anti-government protest in central Tel Aviv, today.Credit: Moti Milrod

Over 110,000 people are protesting at the main rally on Kaplan street in Tel Aviv, while several more thousands are at Habima square in the city center, police estimate.

Judy Maltz

'Too many of our young men died fighting for this country. We’re not going to let it be taken away from us'

Ruth packer (left) and Rona Levine, at the rally in Tel Aviv, today.Credit: Judy Maltz

Ruth packer and Rona Levine, best friends and partners in an architecture firm, have been coming to the each of the weekly protests.

"My mom is a Holocaust survivor. This country saved her, and I’m here to make sure it’s not destroyed by those in power today," Ruth says. Rona adds that “too many of our young men died fighting for this country. We’re not going to let it be taken away from us.”

Judy Maltz

'It’s inconceivable that a man standing trial for corruption will be leading the country and now wants to appoint the judges'

Elina, a 69 year old doctor from Argentina who asked that her last name not be published, is protesting for the second week in a row.

"I am reminded of what happened in Argentina when dictatorship took over, “ she says. “It’s inconceivable that a man standing trial for corruption will be leading the country and now wants to appoint the judges.”

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Former Defense Minister Gantz: 'We are not ready to compromise on Israeli democracy'

Former Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Saturday evening in an interview with public broadcaster Kan 11: "We are not ready to compromise on Israeli democracy in its deepest sense. The fact that we are ready to reach agreements does not mean that we are ready to give up."

Referring to to the High Court ruling in Shas leader Arye Dery's case, Gantz said: "The High Court has had its say. Netanyahu should support [the decision] of the High Court in this matter."

Speaking at the anti-government protest in central Tel Aviv, former head of the Shin Bet security service Ami Ayalon called on fellow senior members of Israel's security establishment, and current Likud ministers, Avi Dichter and Yoav Galant, to oppose what he described as a government coup.

"I know the two personally, as determined and brave fighters. I have no doubt that they, like us, are aware of the abyss into which Netanyahu is dragging Israel, but they are still silent - their courage has been replaced by narrow political considerations. I am calling from here to all the Gallants and all the Dichters - wake up!,' Aylon said.

Judy Maltz

More than 100,000 people rally in Tel Aviv, police say

According to Israeli police, some 100,000 protesters are gathered in two locations in Tel Aviv to protest the Netanyahu-led government.

More than 100,000 people rally in Tel Aviv against far-right gov'tCredit: Hadas Parush

Protesters are chanting slogans against Justice Minister Yariv Levin's judicial overhaul plan: "Yariv Levin, it's not Poland here," and "We don't want to be Hungary, we don't want to leave for Berlin."

Screens placed by the organizers read: "No to dictatorship, fighting for democracy."

Josh Breiner

Police commander: We will allow freedom of expression and protest

Israeli Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai said Saturday evening that police are set up in all protest locations "in order to allow freedom of expression and freedom of protest while maintaining public order."

Shabtai added that he wishes that tonight's events "will pass quietly and peacefully and that everyone will express their opinion."

Tel Aviv Police District Commander Ami Ashad said that he does not rule out that police forces will allow protesters to block the Ayalon Highway that goes through the center of the city, and added that police do not intend to use crowd control measures.

Bar Peleg

50,000 protest in Tel Aviv, police say

Protesters in Kaplan street, Tel Aviv, tonight.Credit: Emil Salman

According to police estimates, so far some 50,000 people are gathered in Tel Aviv for anti-government rallies taking place in two location in the center of the city.

Lapid vows at protest: 'We won't give up until we win'

"This is a protest intended to defend the country. People who love the country came today to defends its democracy and its courts, to defend the idea of common life and common good," opposition leader and former prime minister Yair Lapid said at one of the protests in Tel Aviv on Saturday, a week after he avoided attending the anti-government protest, apparently because politicians were not permitted to make speeches.

"Lovers of Israel came to protest for a Jewish and democratic country. We won't give up until we win," opposition leader Yair Lapid said at the Tel Aviv protest on Saturday."

Lapid at a demonstration in Tel Aviv, on Saturday.Credit: May Castelnuovo

Bar Peleg

Israeli author David Grossman to speak at Tel Aviv protest

Israeli author David Grossman will speak at the demonstration that will be held tonight in Habima Square in central Tel Aviv.

In an opinion piece published in Haaretz in December, Grossman wrote, "Under the guise of democracy, Netanyahu is warping the character of Israel itself, sowing the seeds of anarchic chaos, hatred and violence which cannot be tamed."

Author David Grossman speaking at the Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Ceremony, in Tel Aviv, 2018.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

Also set to speak at the protest are writer Zeruya Shalev, former Shin Bet chief Ami Ayalon, and former Jerusalem District Court President David Cheshin.

At the second demonstration held at the same time at another location in Tel Aviv, former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon, former Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber and head of the Israeli Bar Association Adv. Avi Himi are expected to speak.

Nati Toker

In U-turn, Israeli Mall Giant to Publish Haaretz Ad Promoting ‘Democracy’

Azrieli Group, an Israeli company that owns and operates malls across the country, said Saturday that it will publish a digital advertisement on democratic values proposed by Haaretz, after initially refusing to do so.

Haaretz, with its business supplement TheMarker, intended to publish the ad, which states that "democracy doesn't end with elections," on a large digital billboard at the Azrieli Center, a complex of three towers and shopping center in the middle of Tel Aviv, but the company at first refused to do so, stating it only allows ads for commercial purposes.

"Supporting Democracy": The Azrieli Group billboard, in central Tel Aviv, today.Credit: Nir Kafri

Later in the day, the Azrieli Group published a digital billboard with the slogan "Supporting Democracy" at Azrieli Center — the location of the anti-government protest which is set to take place this evening.

Read the full article here

עדי חשמונאי

6,000 people are protesting in Haifa, police estimate

Over 5,000 people are taking part in the anti-government rally in the northern city of Haifa, according to estimates.

Nir Mariash, CEO of Haifa Municipality and a 40-year resident of the city, says he "doesn't remember a demonstration of this scale in Haifa."

Anti-government protesters in Haifa, tonight.

Bar Peleg

Police, demonstrators prepare protests across Israel against far-right gov't

Tens of thousands of Israelis are expected to flock to the streets across Israel in protest of Israel's new far-right government and its attempt to weaken the judicial system for the third consecutive weekend.

Demonstrations will be held in Jerusalem, Haifa and Be'er Sheva, with the largest protest planned at two separate locations in central Tel Aviv to allow more people to attend the rallies in a less crowded space.

Police have started blocking key roads to vehicle access across the city in the afternoon and estimate that 50,000-100,000 people will attend the protests in Tel Aviv. About 1,000 police officers will secure both rallies and regulate traffic.

The organizers intend on placing large screens along the street and a stage with speakers at the Azrieli junction, and are also planning to march north along Menachem Begin Road in central Tel Aviv.

The organizing groups of the protests in Tel Aviv include: The Movement for Quality Government, the Black Robes Movement (lawyers against the far-right's plan to weaken the justice system), the Protest Movement Against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Commanders for the Security of Israel, Free Israel, members of high-tech and student protests and organizations that promote LGBTQ rights.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid announced he would participate in the main demonstration after not attending last week's protests because the organizers refused to allow him and other politicians to speak. The previous demonstration was attended by the heads of other opposition parties such as Benny Gantz, Merav Michaeli, and Mansour Abbas.

Bar Peleg

Tens of thousands of protesters expected to rally against far-right gov't, judicial overhaul

Israelis protesting in Tel Aviv last week against the new government's plans to weaken the judiciary.Credit: Ilan Rosenberg/Reuters

Protests against the government’s planned overhaul of the legal system and other measures are scheduled in Tel Aviv and other cities Saturday evening, with tens of thousands of people expected to attend.

Demonstrations will be held in Haifa, Jerusalem and Be’er Sheva, among other cities, but the main one will be in Tel Aviv, near the government complex on Kaplan Street. Since protest leaders are at odds with each other, there will be a second demonstration in Tel Aviv, at Habima Square.

Police estimated turnout at last week’s protests in Tel Aviv at around 80,000.

Read the full article.

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