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anti-government protests

Netanyahu, allies accuse protestors of ‘creating chaos’

Comments come as Israel enters its ninth week of protests against judicial reforms

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a cabinet meeting on the state budget, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on February 23, 2023. Photo by Alex Kolomoisky/POOL

Speaking at a government meeting on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused those protesting against the government’s judicial reforms of wanting to create chaos and bring the country into a sixth election. 

“The extreme and dangerous group that organizes just wants to burn down the house and create chaos in the country,” Netanyahu said in his address. 

He also suggested that the protest organizers were seeking to overturn November’s election results. 

“They want to overthrow the government, bringing about a constitutional crisis with the intention that this will lead to sixth elections. That’s their real goal,” he said. 

The prime minister also commented on the protestors blocking the Ayalon Highway, central Israel’s main thoroughfare, on Saturday night.

“During the Gaza disengagement, blocking major routes was considered a serious offense by the attorney general who, back then, said it should warrant 20 years behind bars,” he said. 

Netanyahu again denounced the large group of protesters who staged a siege on an upscale Tel Aviv hair salon where his wife, Sara Netanyahu, was having her hair done on Wednesday.

“While some forms of protest are legitimate, we see that many are taking the law into their own hands and besieging my wife in a Tel Aviv hair salon,” he said again. “They wish to cause the government to collapse and bring about a constitutional crisis. I call upon the opposition to join me in trying to take the tensions down a notch.” 

Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir on Saturday night called the protestors at the Tel Aviv police field headquarters “anarchists who want to burn the state of Tel Aviv.”

Transportation Minister Miri Regev used similar language to describe the protestors who had gathered outside Sara Netanyahu’s hair salon. During a Purim celebration on Saturday night, she referred to the protestors as “hundreds of demonstrators, hate in their eyes, as if this is a kasbah (fortress) of terror.” 

Netanyahu’s son, Yair Netanyahu, also accused the protestors of trying to lynch his mother. He wrote on a social media post: “The line was crossed into a violent coup tonight. In the United States, this would have ended in mass raids on the homes of those involved by the FBI.” 

Yair Netanyahu has a history of making inflammatory remarks, which have resulted in several lawsuits.

Some of Netanyahu’s Likud party allies have suggested meeting with opposition leaders. 

Former Knesset Speaker and Likud party member Yuli Edelstein called to pause the government’s judicial reforms in order to reach an agreement with the opposition and calm tensions. 

“We have the ability to pause the legislative process for a limited period,” Edelstein said to Israel's Channel 12 news. 

Edelstein noted that other senior Likud members shared this opinion. 

“When you agree to come and talk like adults and not like little kids in a kindergarten, then it’s definitely possible to arrive at a joint draft,” Edelstein said. 

On Sunday, Justice Minister Yariv Levin, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and Constitution Committee Chairman Simcha Rothman issued a joint statement to opposition leaders to meet for compromise talks with President Isaac Herzog presiding. 

Opposition leader Benny Gantz dismissed the offer, saying it was made in bad faith. He called on Rothman to pause the legislation as a pre-condition to meet "today at the President’s office.” 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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