Ignoring safety concerns, ex-prime minister doubles down on support for Tel Aviv airport protest

Ehud Olmert says ‘impolite protest’ necessary to stop judicial reform, brushes off safety concerns around blocking airport.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert reiterated his support for disruptive demonstrations against judicial reform, including a plan to block Ben Gurion Airport on Monday afternoon despite pleas from safety officials that the protest could harm public safety.

Organizers of several anti-judicial reform protest groups have stated their intention to gather at Israel’s main international airport during peak rush hour traffic and a popular day for travel as schoolchildren are now on summer break.

Protest leaders have threatened to create massive disruption at the travel hub should a bill aimed at ending the so-called “reasonability” clause, often cited by the Supreme Court, remain on the Knesset agenda.

On Sunday morning, Central District police commander Avi Biton pleaded with protesters to call off the demonstration. Citing an incident overnight Saturday in which a commercial flight was forced to make an emergency landing at the airport due to a technical malfunction, Biton noted in a public statement that blocking traffic and roads around the travel hub could potentially result in loss of human life.

“I call on protest organizers: Show responsibility so that a disaster will not happen that we will regret,” Biton said. “The traffic lanes in the Ben Gurion Airport area are defined as emergency roads and must be left open for rescue services at all times.

Olmert, a vehement opponent of proposed legislation to reform Israel’s legal system and longtime enemy of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, refused to back down from his support for what he called “impolite protests” in an interview with Army Radio on Sunday morning.

“I support the demonstration, and I don’t think that any of the organizers of the demonstration talked about disruptions at the airport or damage to its ability to function. These are things that the opponents of the protest say, but that is not what the people of the protest are saying. The intention is to have an impolite demonstration,” Olmert said.

Notably, organizers of the protest have specifically cited disruption to the airport’s normal operation as the goal of the demonstration and have encouraged travelers to take the train rather than drive to the airport – indicating that they plan to block roads and snarl traffic in the area.

“The purpose of the demonstrations is to make it clear to the government that there is a powerful movement that [represents] infrastructure of Israeli society, in the economic, creative, academic, in any field,” Olmert continued.

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“These demonstrations want to make the government back down [from judicial reform legislation]I support them, with emphasis on the fact that there is no intention to do anything illegal or violent, and I am sure that there will be no violent aspect.”

Numerous anti-judicial reform demonstrations have been marred by multiple violent incidents, as activists have physically attacked police officers and motorists attempting to avoid illegal road blocks and closures created by demonstrations.