Pro-democracy demonstrators from the “Crime Minister” group sat down and blocked the entrance to the headquarters of Israel’s Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem on Sunday morning, June 7, prior to and during the cabinet’s weekly meeting. The protesters formed a human chain to protest the proposed “Corona Bill” and far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accusing him of using the pandemic to advance legislation for his own political interests. Most of participants had taken part in the anti-occupation rally held at Rabin Square, on Saturday evening, June 6.
As the protesters’ human barrier prevented ministers’ cars from entering the compound, most of the cabinet members entered the building on foot, walking past the demonstrators, while Netanyahu’s convoy was brought in through a back entrance. Before their vigil the organizers of the protest wrote: “The work on Corona Law continues. We’re sure that this is a malicious law that is another part of the plan to save the accused [Netanyahu] from trial, while undermining our democracy.” Last week, Joint List MK Ofer Cassif (Hadash) likened the law to “anti-democratic legislation we have seen introduced in Erdoğan’s Turkey. That’s where this will take us.”
The cabinet convened at the Foreign Ministry because it has a conference room large enough to accommodate all the ministers while observing COVID-19 social distancing rules.
Hundreds also protested in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Thursday evening, June 4, against the bill that would introduce sweeping emergency regulations purportedly aimed at tackling the coronavirus pandemic. At the close of the rally, the participants entered the intersection of King David Boulevard and Ibn Gabirol streets, blocking traffic along the latter, one of the city’s main thoroughfares. Police forcibly broke up the rally arresting 12 demonstrators. The demonstrators raised claims of police brutality during the dispersal of the protest. Videos circulating social media show law enforcement officers using force against some of the demonstrators who blocked the road.
The demonstrators, members of the “Crime Minister” movement, carried signs that said, “Bribery, fraud and breach of trust,” “Capital + power = mafia” and “Netanyahu is destroying Israeli society,” and chanted “fighting against corruption,” in reference to the criminal charges against the premier.
According to a draft memorandum of the bill reported on late Sunday night, the government would be given special powers to deal with the coronavirus for 45 days, which the Knesset will able to extend the emergency period every 30 days for up to 10 months. Included in the so-called “Corona Law” is the ability to restrict visits to private homes, permission for police to enter homes without a warrant and use force to enforce regulations, and, crucially, power for the government to decide upon new measures without Knesset approval. According to the bill, the minister in charge of administering the law would be the prime minister himself.