Attorney General to Clarify Only Protests Over State Affairs Need Police Permission

The directive, which upholds a 2017 Supreme Court ruling, will be binding on law enforcement agencies, who have failed to carry out this ruling in the past

Chen Maanit
Chen Maanit
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Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit speaks at the Conference of the Organization of Internal Legal at Tel Aviv University, in June.
Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit speaks at the Conference of the Organization of Internal Legal at Tel Aviv University, in June.Credit: Hadas Parush
Chen Maanit
Chen Maanit

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit is expected to issue a directive in the next few weeks revoking the need for a permit to hold a demonstration, unless it concerns foreign, defense or diplomatic affairs.

The attorney general is also expected to uphold the police practice of allowing protests outside the offices of senior civil servants such as ministers or the attorney general.

The order is meant to corroborate the High Court of Justice ruling of 2017, which stipulates that permits are not necessary for demonstrations against government corruption and political matters, and that the police cannot limit the number of demonstrators in them.

The directive will be binding on law enforcement agencies, including police, who have failed to carry out this ruling in the past. Police are in charge of issuing demonstration permits.

Those wishing to demonstrate will still be required to inform the police in advance, however, despite not requiring their permission.

The directive, which the Justice Ministry started drafting four years ago following the High Court ruling, was delayed due to intensive work required by Israel's series of recent elections, according to the ministry.

The draft was recently approved by Raz Nizri, the attorney general’s deputy, and it now awaits Mendelblit’s final approval.

In the 2017 verdict, Supreme Court President Esther Hayut stated that the demonstrations then occurring outside Mendelblit’s Petah Tikva home were not “an ‘inferior’ expression worthy of scaled-down protection, but the implementation of the right to freedom of expression, which is at the core of democracy’s basic liberties.”

The court rejected the police’s position that the demonstrations were about a foreign or defense issue, noting that their declared purpose had been to preserve the rule of law and ethical standards.

Mendelblit is expected to clarify that the police had been wrong in attributing political-diplomatic motives to numerous demonstrations.

Though police have recently stated that they were acting in keeping with the court ruling, a petition filed in March by lawyers Yuval Yoaz and Ohad Shpak maintains these statements are “no more than lip service.”

The petitioners say statements by the police in recent years “show that the police’s standard practice is still to demand a permit for holding a demonstration,” and that the police continue to act contrary to the ruling by checking the issues the demonstration relates to when they consider issuing the permit.

The petitioners asked the High Court to instruct the attorney general to amend his directive “without delay” to reflect the court’s ruling.

In recent years the number of protests outside the private homes of civil servants and elected officials has increased, with some crossing the line, according to Justice Ministry officials.

The right-wing protests outside the home of deputy state prosecutor Liat Ben Ari, also the main prosecutor in the trial of opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, is one example.

Incitement against Ben Ari and her family rose during the protests and police limited them to three hours, two days a week, 450 meters from the house.

According to Mendelblit, demonstrations should be forbidden outside the homes of civil servants who are not at the top level, ministry officials said. The attorney general wrote in the request that “in recent years there is a growing need for law enforcement agencies to ... deal with the attacks on civil servants, which are clearly intended to intimidate them and deter them from carrying out their public duty.”

The state’s duty is “to protect civil servants, their safety and peace, and that of their families,” he wrote.

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