Protesters attempt to kayak, swim to Netanyahu’s private coastal home


Protesters against the government’s judicial reform on Friday tried to storm Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s private home in the seaside town of Caesarea.

The demonstrators, led by navy veterans and a group of IDF reservists known as “Brothers in Arms,” ​​reached the city’s northern beach near Netanyahu’s home in kayaks and by swimming.

Video showed the protesters paddling along the shore in single and multi-person kayaks bearing Israeli flags. Other participants arrived at the beach wearing wetsuits and other snorkeling gear.

They approached Netanyahu’s home but were removed from the scene by local police and the prime minister’s security detail.

Law enforcement said the activists were staging an illegal demonstration.

The protesters from the naval reserves said they had staged the demonstration to tell Netanyahu that he needed to “stop the judicial overhaul.”

Members of the veterans group previously took to the water to block the entrance to Haifa Port, one of Israel’s main international maritime hubs, as part of national demonstrations against the government.

Other demonstrators have also used creative means to protest the coalition’s controversial legislative push, including during Thursday’s national rallies that took place a day after the coalition flatly rejected an alternative judicial reform proposal from President Isaac Herzog.

Actors dressed as characters from “The Handmaid’s Tale”, a dystopian novel and TV series, have made regular, ominous appearances at the screenings.

They say they are demonstrating to prevent what they believe will be a dark future if the government follows through with its plans, especially for women.

Margaret Atwood, author of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” said on Twitter Thursday that images of the costumed demonstrators marching in formation down a Tel Aviv street were “amazing.”

In another unusual act of protest, on Thursday demonstrators painted a wide, bright red line on the street in front of the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, saying it symbolized the direct link between the independence of the courts and free speech. Police said they arrested five people for vandalizing public property.

Another group set up an “army recruitment center” outside the municipality building in the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak. Most ultra-Orthodox men avoid military service and the populist parties in the coalition aim to codify their exemptions into law.

“We have found the burden of recruiting for the ultra-Orthodox population because if there is a dictatorship here, we will have to come here and recruit. We repeat: Without democracy, there is no people’s army,” said the demonstrators in Bnei Brak.

In Rehovot, members of the group set up sandbags around the magistrate’s court, saying they were protecting the courts from “attacks by criminals who wanted to carry out a coup.”

Protesters supporting women’s rights dressed as characters from the TV series “The Handmaid’s Tale” attend a protest against government plans to reform the judicial system, Tel Aviv, Israel, March 11, 2023. (AP/Ohad Zwigenberg)

Other demonstrators blocked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s access to the airport, forcing him to travel to the airport by helicopter to catch a flight abroad.

In addition to the public protests, IDF reservists have expressed more doubts about their continued service, or said they will stop showing up, because of the government’s plans. Hundreds of elite reservists announced Thursday that they will stop their voluntary service starting Sunday in protest.

In addition to the massive demonstrations, the government’s plans have prompted dire warnings from security officials, legal experts, financial leaders, entrepreneurs and opposition politicians.

The government’s legislation, in its current form, will allow the Knesset to override court decisions by a bare majority, shield laws entirely from judicial oversight, and place all judicial discretion in the hands of coalition politicians. Opponents argue that it will weaken Israel’s democratic character, remove a key element of its checks and balances and leave minorities unprotected. Supporters call the reform much-needed for reunification in an overactive court.

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