tel aviv, israel
Protesters blocked the way 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 justice system.
A CNN team at Ben Gurion Airport saw people walking to Terminal 3 with suitcases because of the blocked road, as scenes of what has been dubbed a “Disruption Day” emerged.
Israeli television also showed a separate protest in the city of Tel Aviv that appeared to number in the thousands, with protesters waving Israeli flags.
Opponents of government plans to give Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, the power to overturn Supreme Court decisions by 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 of just over nine million people.
The legislative package would also give the government the power to appoint judges, which currently rests with a committee made up of judges, lawyers and politicians. It would take away the power and independence of the 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 on the day US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in Israel for meetings with Netanyahu and Defense Secretary Yoav Gallant. Austin was originally scheduled 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. General Pat Ryde said.
Proponents of the plan to overhaul the judiciary say the changes are necessary to rein in a Supreme Court that has become too powerful and not democratically accountable.