On anti-Netanyahu Protests, High Court Rules for Freedom of Speech

Organizers appealed police decision to ban protesters near Attorney General Mendelblit's home, but court finds residents 'right to peace and quiet' is relatively minor

One of the weekly demonstrations against perceived corruption of Prime Minister Netanyahu in Petah Tikva near Attorney General Avichai Mendilblit's home on August 23, 2017.
Ofer Vaknin

The High Court of Justice ruled Thursday that demonstrations near the Petah Tikva home of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit will be limited to 500 participants over the next two weeks, until it makes a final decision on the matter. The justices also ruled that demonstrators cannot step into the street or use more than two megaphones. Further conditions stipulate that the demonstrations cannot start before 8 P.M. and that organizers must bring along people who are responsible for keeping order. A final ruling in the matter is expected in two weeks.

The decision was made during a discussion of a petition by the organizers of these demonstrations, who were appealing a police decision to prohibit protesters close to Mendelblit’s house. The weekly demonstrations protest the attorney general’s handling of the investigations of alleged corruption by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In its ruling the court adopted all the conditions placed by the police for the continuation of these demonstrations, prior to the final ruling, even though the court rejected police arguments that these protests require a permit. The panel of judges included Yoram Danziger, Esther Hayut and Uzi Fogelman. They did not explain why they had decided to limit the number of demonstrators to 500 and determined that the police was responsible for enforcing this limit by placing barriers and rerouting additional demonstrators to other locations, probably a city park. The judges did not address counter-demonstrations held by Likud for the last three weeks, which have been attended by about 150 people, and did not limit the numbers at these protests.

During the hearing Danziger referred to police claims that the demonstrations in Goren Square were disrupting the lives of residents in the area. He noted that the “right of residents to peace and quiet is not a constitutional right that even comes close to a constitutional right such as the right to demonstrate and to freedom of expression.”

Hayut stressed the importance of the location of the demonstration, saying that after 40 such rallies held every Saturday night, Goren Square has become something of a symbol.

The justices then proposed a compromise, limiting the number of demonstrators to 500, with others turned to an alternative location. Hayut noted that the demonstration should be obliged to begin after the Sabbath. The attorney representing the police, Ehud Eitan, accepted this proposal but the demonstration organizers rejected it. Subsequently, the judges decided to temporarily limit the number of participants, until they make their final ruling.