Protesters against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu say police officers are doing everything possible to keep them from bringing prop submarines into the demonstrations.
The models are a way for protesters to draw attention to their demand that Netanyahu be investigated for alleged corruption in Israel’s purchase from the German firm ThyssenKrupp of three submarines for 1.5 billion euros ($1.8 billion) and three patrol boats for 430 million euros.
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Netanyahu denies all wrongdoing in the affair, dubbed Case 3000 by the police. The state prosecutor’s office has said the prime minister was not a suspect in the case. Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, who has the authority to press such charges against the prime minister, has indicted Netanyahu for fraud, bribery and breach of trust in other cases. Among those indicted in Case 3000 are close associates of Netanyahu who are accused of accepting bribes to advance the sale.
One police source who spoke with Haaretz on the condition of anonymity confirmed the directive to confiscate the prop submarines. “This isn’t some innocent sign,” he said. “These models are a flash point for disturbances of the peace, illegal marches and obstruction of roads. Sometimes they have been used to break through roadblocks and even attack the police. The police are very tolerant toward the protesters, but sometimes [the protesters] cross the line,” he added. The police said that at a protest in Tel Aviv in October, a policeman was injured in the leg by a plastic submarine.
The protesters claim that the police are doing everything possible to prevent the submarine models from being brought to protests, particularly along march routes, and allege that demonstrators have even been arrested to prevent the presence of the subs.
The submarine models first appeared at protests last summer and were constructed of irrigation tanks, prompting a large number of confrontations with the police. More recently, they have been made of inflatable rubber, but the run-ins with the police have continued. At a protest in Tel Aviv last week, the police prevented marchers from carrying an inflatable submarine and threw it over a fence.
On Saturday, the police arrested 24 protesters with submarine props during a march on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway. “Every time there are submarines at a demonstration, it drives the police out of their minds,” one protester said. “We hear them radioing, ‘Don’t let them proceed with the submarines.’ It’s crazy.”
“What’s the difference between a model and a sign?” asked Roy Goldstein, one of the arrested protesters. “The submarines ‘ignite’ the police because it’s the most threatening case to Netanyahu. On the other hand, the conduct of the police gives us a lot of power,” he said.
The arrested protesters were taken in for questioning on suspicion of blocking a highway, interfering with an officer and breach of the peace. They were released subject to restrictions, including the condition that they not return to that stretch of Route 1 for 15 days.