Tens of thousands of protesters have filled the streets of Tel Aviv, including blocking the main Ayalon highway, requiring police to remove them. At the same time, thousands of protesters are demonstrating in Jerusalem and in Beer Sheba.
Meanwhile, Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai on Tuesday evening commented on the protests, saying that "most of the citizens obeyed the police's instructions, but there were also some who did not."
Thousands of protesters also took up positions in front of the US Embassy building in Tel Aviv, where they filled the promenade waving both Israeli and American flags. The protest there began on Tuesday evening as thousands continued demonstrate and clash with police at Ben Gurion International airport. That protest ended later on Tuesday and the roads in the airport reopened to traffic.
Organizers of the protests say that the congestion at the airport was caused by the police, who set up roadblocks and barriers in their effort to prevent demonstrations near the main terminal. A dedicated area was assigned to the protesters near a separate part of the airport but protesters gathered outside the main terminal marching and chanting.
"The Israel Police are creating partitions between the protesters in several locations, and are causing tremendous crowding for no reason," according to the organizers. Demonstrators there told Ynet: "We are crushed, there will be a disaster here. Someone take responsibility for this emergency."
The police announced that as of about 7 p.m. 71 protesters accused of violating public order have been arrested in protests across the country. Some 45 of them were released. In total, 33 protesters were arrested in the Tel Aviv District, 21 protesters were arrested in the Central District, 10 protesters were arrested in the Jerusalem District and seven protesters were arrested in the Northern District. Police also detained a 39-year-old man in Tel Aviv for questioning on suspicion of spraying graffiti on the Yehudit Bridge.
Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai rejected claims that his forces were confronting the protesters using more violent measures and insisted that officers were acting under the same orders on Tuesday, as they have been given in the past 27 weeks since the mass demonstrations began. At least three protesters were injured and taken to hospital, in clashes with police force in Tel Aviv. National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir accused the police commissioner of failing to forcefully enforce the law. He sidestepped the commissioner and spoke directly with commanders on the ground and according to one, demanded to know why there is selective enforcement that favors protesters from the left over those who support the government. Former commanders of the military and the police slammed the minister for his intrusion into the operational decisions of the police and claimed he was weakening the force's authority.
As the coalition forged on with its legislative push to overhaul the judicial system, and the Knesset Constitution, Law Justice committee began its deliberation on a final version of the bill to curb the oversight power of courts over decisions of the executive branch, former defense minister Benny Gants said there can be no dialogue to reach a compromise while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues on his legislative agenda. Gantz also said the military should not be dragged into the protest after hundreds more members of the IDF reserves said they would not serve anymore since their country was becoming a dictatorship.
Embattled Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara said protests must be allowed at the airport under their legal right to protest, her decision drew renewed calls for her ouster from members of the coalition including ministers in Netanyahu's government. Should the Knesset pass a final vote on a bill limiting the oversight of the courts, which was approved in its first reading with a 64 to 56 majority late on Monday, the AG is expected to be sacked and replaced with someone more amenable to the coalition's agenda. Legal experts warn such a move could lead to the criminal proceedings against Netanyahu being stopped.
Mass demonstrations are planned until the late hours on Tuesday, with Tel Aviv's Kaplan street set to be the site of the major demonstration.
Arnon Bar David, chairman of the Histadrut, Israel's largest labor union called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to halt his legislative push although he would not commit to joining the protests. "Stop this mad chaos," he said, speaking in Tel Aviv.
Hundreds of doctors and medical professionals wearing white robes gathered to demonstrate in Tel-Aviv under a banner claiming the legislation has caused a medical emergency. "There is no human medicine or compassion in a dictatorship, Professor Doron Kopelman, Head of the surgical department at the Technion said. Medical teams at the Rabin Medical Center in Petach Tikva, also walked out to join the protest.
Some 300 cyber experts said they are no longer willing to volunteer to serve in the IDF, Shin Bet and Mossad out of concern that the government will make ill use of the powerful cyber tools at Israel's disposal. "This criminal government threatens the basis of democracy," they said. Their protests joins hundreds of other volunteers in the IDF reserves from elite and fighting units who have said they would not serve a dictatorship.
Culture and Sports Minister Miki Zohar (Likud) said the protests are anarchy. "The protesters chose to break the law. That is not democracy," he said adding he does not think there is a need to return to talks with the opposition to find common ground. "Today's protests motivate us to continue with the legislation," Zohar said.
Protests will also be held in airports around the world including New York City, San Francisco, Washington, Seattle, London, Paris Munich, Frankfurt, Madrid, Amsterdam and Zurich. Activists in Israel's UnXeptable Movement of ex-pats opposed to Israel's government will hand out leaflets explaining their concerns that Israel was turning away from a democratic regime.
Main routes leading into cities and on major highways will also see demonstrators from the early morning hours to protest the government's push to pass the judicial overhaul.
The protests have been taking place for the past 27 weeks since Justice Minister Yariv Levin announced the government's plan.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the bill does make Israel undemocratic. "It is not the end of democracy, it strengthens democracy," Netanyahu said in a video statement as the Knesset debated the bill. "Even after the amendment court independence and civil rights in Israel will not be harmed in any way. The court will continue to oversee the legality of government action and appointments," Netanyahu said.
He opted to forge ahead with the legislative push despite being criticized by leaders across the world and especially in Washington, where he has yet to be invited to meet with U.S. President Biden. In an interview on Sunday, Biden called Netanyahu's coalition the 'most extreme' he has ever seen in his decades of support for Israel.
After Biden came under attack for "intervening in Israel's internal matters," by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, his outgoing ambassador Tom Nides said the president cannot stand by while Israel was "going off the rails."
First published: 16:09, 07.11.23