Demonstrators in front of politician Blue and White MK Gaby Ashkenazi’s house are fined, although Ashkenazi calls on authorities to cancel them.
By Paul Shindman, World Israel News
Police in the city of Kfar Saba handed out tickets Monday when some 200 protesters stood near Blue and White Party member Gaby Ashkenazi’s home, calling on him not to join a unity government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Members of the “Black Flags” movement were slapped with fines ranging from 475 shekels ($135) to 5,000 shekels ($1,400) for attending the public gathering, Kan News reported.
The group opposes opposition Blue and White leader Benny Gantz’s decision to violate an election promise that he would never sit in a government led by Netanyahu, whose trial on corruption charges has been delayed due to the coronavirus crisis.
“The police officer arrived, pulled me out and announced that I had violated health regulations and gave me a fine,” said Amir Haskel, a reserve army general. “This is a gross lie – we kept our distance properly … the attempt to undermine protests against government corruption shows what difficult times we have reached – we will continue the struggle. ”
Ashkenazi called for the fines to be canceled and said the demonstrators had every right to be there.
“These days, too, freedom of expression and the right to protest must be guaranteed, provided the protesters comply with the Ministry of Health regulations,” Ashkenazi tweeted. “Demonstration is a fundamental right in democracy. I urge the Minister of Public Security and the Chief of Police to consider canceling the tickets.”
When police last month fined protesters outside the Knesset, Israeli’s parliament in Jerusalem, the government responded to the anger from civil rights groups by specifically stating that protesters had the right to gather, so long as they complied with social distancing regulations.
The Kfar Saba Municipality canceled the fines handed out by city inspectors for the demonstrators, but police did not respond to the request.
With unity government negotiations apparently stalled, it is unclear what the next steps are for either Gantz or Netanyahu. The results of the inconclusive March 2 Israeli elections have left both leaders struggling to try and be the one to form a government. Despite calls for unity in the midst of the coronavirus health and economic crisis, the politicians have failed to agree on a method of power sharing.
Should no government be formed in the next month, Israelis will be forced to return to the polls in September for an unprecedented fourth consecutive election.