Tel Aviv, Israel
Protesters blocked the road to one of the main terminals of Israel’s central international airport on Thursday, intensifying a nationwide movement against plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to weaken the country’s judicial system.
A CNN team at Ben Gurion Airport saw people walking towards Terminal 3 with suitcases because of the blocked road, as scenes emerged of what is being called a “Day of Disruption.”
Israeli television also showed a separate protest in the city of Tel Aviv that appeared to number in the thousands, with demonstrators waving Israeli flags.
Opponents of government plans to give Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, the power to overrule Supreme Court decisions with a simple majority have been protesting every Saturday night across Israel for the past nine weeks. The largest protests, in Tel Aviv, have regularly drawn more than 100,000 demonstrators, in a country with a population of just over nine million.
The package of legislation would also give the government the authority to nominate judges, which currently rests with a committee composed of judges, legal experts and politicians. It would remove power and independence from government ministries’ legal advisers, and take away the power of the courts to invalidate government appointments.
The protest at Ben Gurion Airport came hours before Netanyahu flew to Rome to meet Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.
It also took place the day US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in Israel for meetings with Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. Austin was originally due to come to Israel on Wednesday but delayed his arrival by a day at the request of Israeli officials concerned about the protests, the Pentagon said Wednesday. The location of his meeting was also changed because of the protests, Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryde said.
Supporters of the plan to overhaul the judiciary say the changes are necessary to rein in a Supreme Court that has become too powerful and is not democratically accountable.