the end of demos outside the prime minister’s residence in jerusalem

Knesset Passes Law Limiting Protests Under Lockdown
Jonathan Lis, Nir Hasson, Bar Peleg, Yaniv Kubovich, Haaretz, Sep 30 2020

The Knesset passed an amendment to the government’s coronavirus law early Wednesday morning that would bar protesters from traveling more than 1 km from their homes to attend a demonstration. Along with the law, a “special state of emergency” was declared, which the ministerial cabinet will need to ratify three times each week. The declaration will be brought to the constitution committee along with the decision to lengthen it, and the committee will be able to overturn the state of emergency retroactively. A special state of emergency does not allow the government to completely ban prayer, protests or religious ceremonies, but will be able to place restrictions on related gatherings, and limit the number of participants. In addition, it will allow the government to limit protesters from demonstrating beyond the designated radius from their home, at the moment set to 1 km. On Tuesday night, the Israeli military decided not to place more soldiers at police checkpoints in order to help enforce the lockdown in Jerusalem. Defense Minister Benny Gantz said:

Placing troops at police checkpoints near demonstrations is a mistake that has already been addressed and will not be repeated.

Earlier on Tuesday, activists who were traveling to the Knesset to protest against an amendment that would bar demonstrations further than 1km from their home documented verbal altercations with soldiers who were stationed near the parliament, delaying some of the protesters. Gantz urged to leave the Israeli army and police out of the political debate and vehemently condemned any “attempt to attack soldiers and officers in the line of duty.” Eyewitnesses indicated that the police were the ones who actually came into contact with the protesters, but the very placement of the soldiers at the checkpoints provoked criticism. Gantz said:

The government sets the policy.

The army’s spokesperson’s unit also released a statement:

Soldiers are not authorized to to perform any kind of enforcement on civilian population.

During the Knesset debates on Tuesday, hundreds of protesters gathered outside to protest the legislation, three of whom were arrested by Israel Police. The Likud party had demanded significant additional restrictions to the coronavirus emergency legislation, which Knesset failed to ratify on Friday. Those new restrictions include a call to prohibit all demonstrations during the current lockdown to curb a spike in coronavirus infection rates across the country. At noon on Tuesday, however, the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approved the bill. The constitution committee rejected an objection by Yesh Atid lawmaker Yoav Segalovitz, calling to allow protest convoys. Four other objections, submitted by Likud lamakers, together with Ayelet Shaked from right-wing party Yamina, were also rejected; they all related to giving the government the power to impose restrictions on protest without having to declare a state of emergency. The committee deemed that these objections should be considered together, and be brought to a separate vote, against the opinion of the Knesset’s legal adviser. Protesters outside the Knesset termed the bill “an anti-democratic law serving Netanyahu.” Many of them arrived in a protest convoy, which caused significant traffic in Jerusalem. Some clashed with police, who had earlier taken down a protest sign hung on the gates of the nearby Finance Ministry office. One of the three people placed under arrest, Brig-Gen (Res) Assaf Agmon, a leader of the “Ein Matzav” (“No way”) protest group, said he was subjected to violence. He told Haaretz:

We came to demonstrate against the possibility that a law would be enacted that would no longer allow demonstrations in the State of Israel. This is the last step before we fall into a completely fascist state.

On Monday night, Likud was considering retracting its proposals for more stringent restrictions, according to a source within the party, so that Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan would lend its support to new restrictions, which would include curbing protests. The government has sought to limit the distance protesters can protest to within 1 km from their homes, a restriction which the current version of the law, passed in July, specifically prohibits. Following the failure of the legislation to pass, protests were held Saturday night, as they have been for the past several months. On Monday, demonstrators gathered outside Gantz’s home, and those of fellow Kahol Lavan members Gabi Ashkenazi and Avi Nissenkorn, as well as outside the home of Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, a senior Likudnik. After Friday’s law banning protests failed to pass, Netanyahu had announced, and then retracted, a plan to halt these demonstrations. He sought to do so through emergency regulations, a move that Kahol Lavan vetoed and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit disqualified it on legal grounds.

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