Judicial reform protests continued for the 22nd week on Saturday evening, as protest organizers attempt to keep the momentum going.
Hebrew news media estimated that at least 95,000 participated in the main protest rally on Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv. There were smaller protest events in other cities around the country.
At the main rally in Tel Aviv, many protesters held a moment of silent commemoration for the three IDF soldiers killed earlier on Saturday morning at the Egyptian border.
Following the main protest event, a group of several hundred demonstrators marched to Ayalon Highway in central Tel Aviv and blocked the road in both directions.
Police were able to open the northbound side quickly, however, the southbound side was blocked for over an hour.
Many protesters spoke out against police violence after a protest at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Caesarea residence ended with violent arrests on Friday night, where police arrest 17 people, while claiming it was an “illegal protest.”
Photos posted to social media showed police hitting protesters with batons, people being loaded into ambulances, and a police car with bloody handprints.
Police claim that they only used violence after the protesters refused to disperse when ordered to do so, and after some of the protesters “attacked police officers with fists and objects.”
Protest organizers said the incident was due to incitement by Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir.
“This is not an isolated incident but a direct result of the efforts of the indicted terrorist sympathizer, Itamar Ben Gvir,” according to the statement.
On Saturday evening, Ben Gvir said he supported the Israeli Police arresting the protesters and said there should be “zero tolerance toward assaults on police officers and anarchy.”
Protest organizers also tried to link the police violence to an incident in New York City, in which Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee Chairperson Simcha Rothman pulled a megaphone away from a protester who was following him.
“The leadership of the national protests strongly condemns the appalling acts of violence witnessed in Caesarea and New York City last night, affirming that institutionalized violence is a defining feature of dictatorships,” they said.
There have been scattered incidents of violence during the protests involving both police and protesters.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid also denounced the police violence in a rally at Ramat Hasharon.
“We won’t accept violence against Israeli patriots who go out to protest,” Lapid said. “We cannot accept the sight of blood smeared on police vehicles. The police violence against demonstrators yesterday in Caesarea and Hadera is severe and dangerous. It needs to be probed. It cannot be repeated.”
Former IDF Intelligence Chief Lt.-Gen. Amos Malka said in a radio interview last week that accusations of violence by protesters are unfounded.
“Violence is almost non-existent,” he said on 103FM, “except for isolated cases in the current protests.”
Malka accused Likud Knesset members, especially Tali Gottlieb and David Amsalem of stirring up violence, saying, “they have already patented incitement.”
Malka told the interviewers that the protest was seeing a natural reduction in size because the judicial reform legislation has not being advancing while negotiations continue.
“Once there is an event that shows an advancement of the legislative process, we will be there at our strongest,” Malka said.
While the judicial reform legislation is currently on hold during negotiations, Netanyahu said almost two weeks ago that “of course” the legislation would be back on the table.
Netanyahu responded that the coalition reform was “back on the agenda," before adding, “We will, of course, continue with our efforts to arrive at a broad consensus agreement, to the extent possible, on the issue of judicial reform.”
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.