Government votes to block protests against Netanyahu

Opposition furious as Blue and White members vote with Likud to shut down main anti-government protests during coronavirus lockdown.

By World Israel News Staff

The Knesset’s Constitution Committee on Tuesday approved a proposed law authorizing the government to severely restrict anti-government demonstrations during the national coronavirus lockdown.

The bill restricting demonstrators now goes to the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, for a final vote expected to be held late on Tuesday. If the law is approved, the government will be able to declare a “special state of emergency due to the coronavirus” for a week and extend it for up to 21 days during which demonstrations can only be held by people who travel one kilometer or less from their place of residence.

The bill will effectively shut down the regular large-scale protests that have taken place across the country for the past few months but are mostly centered on the central Jerusalem streets near the prime minister’s official residence, where thousands of Israelis regularly demonstrate calling for Netanyahu to resign.

“We maintain a balance between the struggle for public health and civil rights,” Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn of the Blue and White Party tweeted, saying his party agreed to the restriction only for the duration of the nationwide lockdown that began last Friday and was due to expire mid-October.

“The Likud’s dangerous attempt to ban the right to protest throughout the crisis has failed,” Nissenkorn claimed, after attempts by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party to have the ban on large protests last until the pandemic ended.

However, in a live Facebook broadcast also on Tuesday, Netanyahu warned that the high number of seriously ill people in Israeli hospitals with coronavirus might require the lockdown to remain in place for a month or more.

Right-wing opposition Yamina Party chair Ayelet Shaked slammed the decision, saying the government was using the pandemic as an excuse to shut down criticism.

“The Nissenkorn-Netanyahu government links the restriction of demonstrations to a general closure, thus effectively pushing tens of thousands into unnecessary unemployment,” Shaked tweeted, claiming the move to extend the lockdown was simply a bid to ban the protests against the prime minister.

“Nissenkorn is not willing to restrict demonstrations without a full closure. Netanyahu is unwilling not to restrict demonstrations. Their conclusion: close everything so that there will be no demonstrations,” Shaked said.