Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a forceful statement Wednesday night, slamming the anti-government demonstrations in Tel Aviv that finally turned violent this week, and warning that the right to demonstrate is not a right to create anarchy.
“Citizens of Israel, the right to demonstrate is a basic value of democracy. But the freedom to demonstrate is not freedom to bring the country to a standstill,” he said.
“Freedom to demonstrate is not freedom to bring the country to a standstill,” he repeated, adding, “the person who said that, 20 years ago, was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Aharon Barak.
“It was correct then, and it is correct today as well.
“Freedom to demonstrate is not a license to degrade the country into anarchy, to chaos. A sovereign nation cannot tolerate anarchy.
“I know there are among you people who love the country, who support and accept the judicial reform. And I know there are others among you who also love the country, and who oppose the reforms.
“But in a democracy, there are clear guidelines on how to conduct the disagreement.
‘There are red lines that are forbidden to cross, and it doesn’t matter how deep the disagreement, how stormy, how much it enrages someone. The red line that cannot be crossed, that is utterly forbidden, is violence and anarchy.”
‘Day of National Disruption’
Protest leaders called it a “Day of National Disruption,” with demonstrations that shut down Israel’s liveliest city and made it impossible for commuters and even emergency vehicles to get to their destinations.
Police on horseback and on foot worked to disperse the protesters blocking the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv, using stun grenades and water cannons, while fending off direct attacks from the demonstrators.
At least 11 people were injured; there were 50 arrests as well.
“It’s forbidden to strike police officers. It’s forbidden to bring the country to a standstill by blocking roads,” Netanyahu said in a statement earlier in the day.
Lapid Attempting to Generate Anarchy
Netanyahu slammed the efforts he said were led by his predecessor, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, to lead the mobs into anarchy.
“I understand that there is someone here who is attempting to generate anarchy; he is called Yair Lapid,” the prime minister said. “He says it clearly: he wants to create a governmental crisis – I would say a constitutional crisis – because through this he intends to reach new elections.”
But Netanyahu added that people do not have to follow Lapid’s lead – including those who oppose the government’s intended judicial reform.
In response, Lapid tweeted, “We will continue to fight until we win.”
‘A Gloomy Shadow’
Four lawmakers from the Likud and opposition National Unity faction issued a statement just prior to Netanyahu’s remarks, calling on all parties to reach a broad consensus.
“The State of Israel is currently facing many complex challenges in the fields of society, economics and international status and faces severe harsh attacks and serious security challenges than ever,” MKs Yuli Edelstein, Gadi Eisenkot, Hili Trooper and Danny Danon said in their joint statement.
“Above all of these, as a gloomy shadow, the harsh dispute that ripped and party the public in Israel regarding the various proposals of the Israeli judicial system. We have no doubt that although the disputes are difficult, we must act in any way to reach broad agreements,” the MKs said.
“It is imperative for all of us as the representatives of the public and its elected officials, to act immediately to settle the disputes and to achieve agreements and most importantly stop the danger of disintegration that we will develop as a company and as a state.
“All it takes is to respond to the president’s proposal and to have a discussion based on the principles of the outline he proposed.”