Anti-Netanyahu Protesters Return to Jerusalem as High Court Set for Hearing on Restrictions

Ban on demonstrators traveling over kilometer from home expires ■ Israel's top court to hear petition against legislation allowing it to be reinstated

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Anti-Netanyahu protesters in Tel Aviv, October 14, 2020.
Anti-Netanyahu protesters in Tel Aviv, October 14, 2020.Credit: Meged Gozani

Hundreds of protesters joined a vehicle convoy to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's official residence in Jerusalem on Wednesday, while the High Court of Justice decided to have an expanded panel of nine justices hear a petition challenging coronavirus-related legislation allowing the government place restrictions on demonstrations.

The convoys were organized by protest groups demanding a committee of inquiry into what they allege was Netanyahu’s role in advancing deals for the purchase of naval vessels from German industrial group ThyssenKrupp. Dozens of cars left from Kiryat Shmona in the north and Be’er Sheva in the south with mock-up submarines on their roofs, after the ban on protesters traveling over a kilometer (0.6 miles) from their homes expired on Tuesday night.

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The main convoy came from the north, passing through Haifa and Caesarea, where Netanyahu has a home and about 1,000 protesters gathered. Small planes also took part in the protest.

The writer Meir Shalev, who spoke in Caesarea, said: “Netanyahu loves submarines. They suit his character. In the depths, hidden from view. Today, we took his submarines out of the water.”

Shikma Schwartzman, one of the leaders of the Black Flag movement protesting against Netanyahu for his alleged corruption, said at another rallying point on the way: “A direct line passes from Netanyahu’s corruption and the fact that there are about a million people unemployed.”

A protester dressed up as Benjamin Netanyahu, October 14, 2020.Credit: Meged Gozani

Roi Peleg, a leader of another group called Investigate Now, added: “The approval of the sale of the subs to Egypt and the shares might be the most serious corruption case in the history of the state of Israel. We won’t let them abandon our security. This affair must be investigated now.”

Several years ago, Israel signed two deals with ThyssenKrupp – one to buy three submarines for 1.5 billion euros (about $1.8 billion) , and another to buy missile ships to protect Israel’s offshore gas fields for 430 million euros. Several senior officers, civil servants and associates of Netanyahu have been charged with bribery in relation to these deals. The premier was never investigated as a suspect in the affair.

Expanded panel of justices to hear petition

Also Wednesday, the High Court decided to have an expanded panel of nine justices hear a petition against legislation allowing restrictions on protests and gave the government until November 5 to explain why the court should not invalidate legislation permitting the government to restrict protesting, which was passed by the Knesset at the end of September. The government advised the High Court earlier this week that it would not be seeking to renew the regulations, and the regulations expired on Tuesday, but the amendment to legislation remains on the books and could be invoked in the future.

The legislation permits the government to restrict protests – including limitations on location and distance-related limitations on demonstrations – by enacting regulations that may be changed from time to time.

Based on the legislative amendment, temporary regulations had been enacted that limited members of the public to demonstrating within a kilometer from their homes. The court has asked the government to explain whether, with the expiration of the regulations, which provided for a “special state of emergency,” fines issued to demonstrators for violating the regulations would be canceled.

There have been regular demonstrations in recent months around the country, including weekly Saturday evening protests calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign, amid pending criminal charges against him for alleged corruption. The prime minister denies the charges.

Following the news of the expiration of the limitations on protests, the Crime Minister group, which has been involved in organizing the protests against Netanyahu, welcomed the end of what it called “dictatorial regulations imposed on the country by a criminal defendant who sentenced its citizens to economic disaster.” The Black Flag movement, which has also been involved in the protests, said it would resume its involvement in demonstrations near the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem on Saturday.

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