An ultra-right minister denounces “a violent siege” of Parliament and compares the situation with the assault on the US Capitol
July 24 (EUROPA PRESS) –
The Israel Police used water cannons on Monday against hundreds of demonstrators gathered in front of the Knesset headquarters, as part of a new protest against the legislative process for the approval of the controversial judicial reform project.
According to information collected by the Israeli newspaper ‘The Times of Israel’, the protest in Jerusalem has led to clashes in the midst of what parliamentarians from the government coalition have described as “a siege” of Parliament.
The incidents have resulted in at least twelve arrests, while at least five protesters have been admitted to a Jerusalem medical center for what have been described as minor injuries during the clashes.
Among the injured is the Labor Party parliamentarian Naama Lazimi, who was hit in the head by a stream of water fired from one of the Police cannons. After the event, Lazimi stressed that “there is a law enforcement system at the service of a government that wants a dictatorship, not a democracy.” “There is a reason why it is forbidden to use a water cannon directly (against a person) and they cannot use it against the rules,” she has settled.
For his part, the chief of the Israeli Police, Kobi Shabtai, has gone to a control room near the Knesset headquarters to closely follow the events in the protest, in which the prominent activist Moshe Radman, one of the leaders of the mobilizations against the reform project, has been arrested.
The Police have accused the protesters of trying to remove the barriers installed to block the roads and have added that one of them has bitten an agent, while stressing that the police officers “act in the area” in the face of the “riots” and the refusal of the protesters to “listen and follow orders to clear the road”.
In this context, the Israeli Finance Minister, the far-right Bezalel Smotrich, has denounced that “a violent siege designed to prevent members of the Knesset from exercising their right and duty to vote in plenary session is not democracy.”
“This is the Capitol,” he warned, referring to the assault on January 6, 2021 by supporters of former US President Donald Trump who rejected the result of the November elections of the previous year, in which the Democratic candidate and current president, Joe Biden, won.
In addition, sources from the government coalition quoted by the Channel 12 television network have maintained that the Israeli president, Isaac Herzog, and the opposition leaders Yair Lapid and Benjamin Gantz “cannot be interlocutors (to reach an agreement on the reform project) while there is an anti-democratic siege against the Knesset.”
For his part, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly managed to enter parliament through an emergency door, hours after being discharged from hospital after undergoing an operation on Sunday to have a pacemaker placed.
The protests have intensified in recent hours before the vote scheduled this Monday on what is known as the “sensible clause”, which enables the courts to annul a government decision if they consider that it goes against the democratic system, after the collapse of the talks between the Executive and the opposition.
The US president, Joe Biden, has demanded in the last hours that Netanyahu “do not rush” when it comes to moving forward with the reform and has maintained in statements to the Axios portal that “it seems” that the government’s proposal -made up of far-right and ultra-Orthodox parties- “is becoming more divisive, instead of less”.
Critics of the judicial reform argue that it is an attack on Israel’s balance of powers, fundamentally on the foundations on which democracy is based, since it gives Parliament unusual influence to overturn judicial decisions.