Israeli protesters paint ‘red line’ leading to Supreme Court after Netanyahu rejects compromises
By Maayan Lubell
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Jerusalem awoke on Thursday to the sight of a long red line painted by protesters along the roads leading to Israel’s Supreme Court, hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a compromise deal on his government’s planned judicial overhaul.
Police said they arrested five people disguised as workers to stage the overnight protest.
Drone footage showed a small group of people in hazmat suits spray-painting a wide red stripe along mostly deserted roads leading from a police and magistrates compound to the Supreme Court in central Jerusalem.
A slogan stamped in red on the roadside in Hebrew, Arabic and English read: “Drawing the line”.
The far-right government’s drive to limit the powers of the Supreme Court while increasing its own power to select judges has sparked concerns in Israel and abroad about the country’s democratic oversight mechanisms as protests have been simmering for weeks.
On what they dubbed “Resistance Day,” protesters blocked roads around the commercial hub of Tel Aviv and in other cities. At the port of Haifa, some flagged demonstrators on boats, including former marines, tried to block the docking lanes.
“We are here to protest against our democracy, against our country, because we feel that our country is being brutally attacked by the government, the Israeli government,” said choreographer Renana Raz in Tel Aviv.
Departing for a state visit to Germany late Wednesday, Netanyahu said he was concerned about the justice plan and said a compromise proposal outlined by President Isaac Herzog would not restore balance to the branches of government.
His nationalist-religious coalition says the Supreme Court too often exaggerates and interferes in policy matters over which it has no mandate to decide. Court defenders say it is a bastion of democracy that protects rights and freedoms.
Economists, legal experts and former security chiefs have warned that the justice plan, which has yet to be enacted, will devastate the country’s economy and isolate Israel internationally.
Netanyahu, who is on track over corruption allegations he denies, says it will strengthen democracy and boost business. Members of his coalition, who are pushing the changes, hope to get final approval from Parliament by April 2.
(Additional reporting by Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem and Dedi Hayoun in Tel Aviv; Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)