HomeUS News updateNetanyahu airlifted to airport as ‘day of resistance’ protesters block roads

Netanyahu airlifted to airport as ‘day of resistance’ protesters block roads

Demonstrators waving Israeli flags descended on the country’s main international airport, blocking the road leading to the departure area with their cars, starting a “day of resistance to dictatorship”.

Elsewhere, protesters blocked main squares and scuffled with police in the seaside metropolis of Tel Aviv and other cities. A small group of paddleboards and kayaks tried to close a main sea shipping lane off the northern city of Haifa. Some protesters barricaded the Jerusalem offices of a conservative think tank helping to drive judicial changes.

“Israel is on the verge of becoming an autocratic state. The current government is trying to destroy our democracy, and is actually destroying the country,” said Sevian Orr, a protester in Tel Aviv.

The furor over Netanyahu’s legal overhaul has plunged Israel into one of its worst domestic crises. Beyond the protests, which have drawn thousands of Israelis to the streets and recently turned violent, opposition has grown from across society, with business leaders and legal officials speaking out against the plan’s devastating effects. The rift has not spared Israel’s military, which is seeing unprecedented protests from its own ranks.

Netanyahu, who took office in late December after a long political impasse, and his allies say the measures are aimed at reining in a court that has overstepped its authority. Critics say the overhaul would upset the country’s delicate system of checks and balances and drive Israel toward authoritarianism.

Critics also say Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, is motivated by personal grievances and may find a way to escape charges through an overhaul. Netanyahu denies wrongdoing, and says the legal changes have nothing to do with his lawsuit.

Demonstrations were underway across the country as Netanyahu and his allies vowed to press ahead with a series of bills that would strip the Supreme Court of its ability to review the law and give coalition politicians control over judicial appointments. Israel’s formal presidential efforts to defuse the crisis through an alternative legal reform have so far been unsuccessful.

The protesters’ main objective was to complicate the journey to the airport ahead of Netanyahu’s state visit to Rome on Thursday. Police handing out traffic tickets as protesters hold placards that read, “Dictator: Don’t Come Back!” Said that if they do not move, they will forcefully remove the protesters. There were no immediate reports of serious violence.

Israeli media reported that Netanyahu, who had been meeting in Austin prior to his departure, arrived at the airport in a police helicopter, bypassing the protesters. Netanyahu’s office declined to comment.

An airport spokeswoman said regular flights were not disrupted, although some passengers said they had to leave their cars behind a convoy of protesters and reach the terminal on foot.

In an interview with Italian daily La Repubblica ahead of the trip, Netanyahu vowed to downplay the protests and pursue his program.

“The demonstrations show how strong our democracy is,” he said. “A reform is necessary. Judiciary should be independent, not omnipotent.

Police overseen by ultranationalist National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir have vowed to stop the disturbances and have said they have made arrests.

Protesters descended on Tel Aviv’s main highway, blocking afternoon traffic as mounted police and a water cannon truck hovered nearby. Police allowed protesters to remain on the highway for more than an hour, but at some places began to forcefully clear it before the afternoon rush hour.

Red hoardings on the highway read, “Resistance to dictatorship is essential.”

Critics say Ben-Gvir, a key ally in Netanyahu’s coalition government, who has branded the protesters “anarchists” is trying to politicize the police.

“We support freedom of expression, but not anarchy,” Ben-Gvir told reporters during a tour of the airport.

Thursday’s demonstration in Tel Aviv, the country’s business hub and its liberal heartland, was nowhere near as large as last week’s, when police cracked down on otherwise peaceful protests, throwing stun grenades and scuffling with protesters. Those protests ended with Netanyahu’s wife Sara being escorted from a formal Tel Aviv hair salon where protesters had gathered after catching wind of her presence.



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