In a five-minute, prime-time address on Monday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to calm Israel’s turmoil, offering to return to negotiations with the opposition over any further judicial changes until late November. But the antigovernment street protests only intensified.
By 10 p.m., masses of protesters holding Israeli flags had taken over junctions and main roads in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and around the country. Some lit bonfires or burned tires.
Broadcasting live from various protest sites, Israeli television showed chaotic scenes in Tel Aviv, where police officers mounted on horses tried to push protesters off the road but retreated after failing to budge the crowd. They then unleashed a water cannon against the protesters.
In Jerusalem, protesters exhorted the police to join them rather than obeying Israel’s ultranationalist minister of national security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has urged tougher law enforcement against protesters blocking roads. Officers used a water cannon there, too, to try to disperse protesters on the road outside of the Supreme Court.
After the first piece of the judicial overhaul package of legislation — a bill limiting how the Supreme Court’s can overrule the government — passed a final vote in Parliament on Monday afternoon, protest groups called on Israelis to come out into the streets wherever they were, and many did so.
Hundreds of thousands of citizens opposed to the judicial overhaul plan have participated in demonstrations in Tel Aviv and across the country on Saturday nights for 29 consecutive weeks. Days of “national disruption” have also taken place on several weekdays, with protesters flooding the international airport near Tel Aviv, gathering outside ministers’ homes and taking to the sea to block the port in Haifa.
On Saturday, a column of at least 20,000 people marched in scorching heat through the hills and into Jerusalem. Some had set out four days earlier, trekking about 40 miles from Tel Aviv.
Many camped out near Parliament. The numbers of protesters swelled after Monday’s vote.
Video footage showed a vehicle driving into a crowd blocking a highway in central Israel on Monday night, lightly wounding three people. The police said the driver had been arrested.
The police tried to remove protesters forcibly from various locations but were rebuffed.
One of the main grassroots protest groups complained of police violence, saying in a statement, “There is a direct line between the passage of the first dictatorial law and the ratcheting up of illegal police violence toward the protesters.”
“We will not be deterred,” the statement added. “We will continue our battle.”