Netanyahu was forced to use a helicopter to reach the main international airport for an official foreign visit, after crowds of cars and protesters prevented him from getting there by car.
The demonstrations are part of widespread popular protests for more than two months against his controversial plan to reform the judiciary.
Ben Gvir repeated earlier more than once that he believes that road closures are a red line.
Ben Gvir gave instructions to the Israeli police in Tel Aviv to prevent road closures by the opposition at any cost.
This decision was preceded by statements from close associates of the Israeli prime minister, accusing the Israeli police chiefs of cooperating with the opposition.
Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister’s son, made statements accusing the security leaders of the Israeli police of collaborating with the opposition.
Cut off Netanyahu
On Thursday, the demonstrators focused their efforts on blocking Netanyahu’s road to the airport as part of their intensified efforts to oppose the judicial amendments, which prompted him to take a helicopter to get away from the traffic jam caused by the protest.
Thursday’s unrest affected a visit to the country by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who had to rearrange his schedule to keep his meetings near the airport.
Austin briefly addressed Israeli domestic affairs during a press conference, as he repeated comments recently made by US President Joe Biden when he said that “the genius of American democracy and Israeli democracy lies in the fact that both are built on strong institutions, on checks and balances, and on the independence of the judiciary.”
The demonstrators, who declared today “Day of Resisting Dictatorship,” headed to the country’s main international airport, waving Israeli flags, and blocked the road leading to the departure hall with their cars.
Elsewhere, protesters blocked major intersections and clashed with police in the coastal city of Tel Aviv and other cities.
A small flotilla of paddleboarders and kayakers tried to block a major shipping lane off the northern city of Haifa. Some demonstrators erected barricades in front of the Jerusalem offices of a think tank that helps lead judicial reforms.
“Israel is on the verge of becoming an authoritarian state,” said Savion Orr, one of the demonstrators in Tel Aviv. The current government is trying to destroy our democracy, and is already destroying the country.”
Later on Thursday, the army announced that it had suspended a pilot, identified by the media as Col. Gilad Peled, until further notice, justifying this with the fact that he had organized a protest for the pilots.
“The advocacy of mass absenteeism – even if well-intentioned – is prohibited,” said Maj. Gen. Tomer Barr, commander of the Air Force.
A letter from the generals
While some senior army commanders sympathized with the protesters, a group of 36 generals, including two former chiefs of staff, issued a letter saying the army should not be involved in politics and calling for reservists to serve.
“We demand that any discussion or action that involves disobeying orders be avoided,” they added.
The uproar over Netanyahu’s judicial reform has plunged Israel into one of its worst internal crises.
And along with the protests, which drew tens of thousands of Israelis to the streets and turned violent recently.
Opposition spread from across society, with business leaders and legal officials speaking out about the risks of the plan.
The Israeli army was no exception to this dispute, and is witnessing unprecedented opposition from within its ranks.
The crisis is between two sides
- Netanyahu, who took office in late December after a prolonged political deadlock, and his allies say the measures are intended to rein in a court that has overstepped its authority. Critics say the reform would upset the delicate system of checks and balances and push Israel toward authoritarianism.
- Critics also say that Netanyahu, who is on trial on corruption charges, is motivated by personal grievances and that he could find a way out through comprehensive reform. Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing and says the legal changes are unrelated to his trial.
- Demonstrations were planned 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 legislation and give ruling coalition politicians control over judicial appointments.
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