Israelis have staged protests outside the Knesset and along the main thoroughfare to Jerusalem, voicing outrage at measures to fight the coronavirus outbreak that protestors claim are anti-democratic.
Protestors claim that measures imposed by the Israeli government to slow the spread of coronavirus are anti-democratic and undermining Israeli democracy.
These include the decision to permit security services to track the telephones of those with confirmed cases of coronavirus, which protestors claim is an invasion of privacy, and stringent travel and quarantine measures.
Police temporarily blocked the motorway to Jerusalem and fined some drivers, many of whom were waving black flags, in an attempt to prevent cars entering the city.
Outside the Knesset, police arrested four protestors including the former Chief of Staff of the IDF’s Special Operations Command. Police said the protestors were in breach of social distancing measures.
המשטרה עצרה בצומת שוהם את תא"ל שחר ארגמן, לשעבר מפקד סיירת מטכ"ל, ראש מערך המבצעים המיוחדים, גיבור ישראל שתמיד התנדב לפרוץ ראשון בכל אירוע חטיפת בני ערובה בידי מחבלים. "נסענו בנתיב הימני, כשכל שאר 3 הנתיבים פנויים לחלוטין בגלל הסגר. השוטרים נטפלו רק למי שהניפו דגלים שחורים. pic.twitter.com/pkOru5xOsQ— Ronen Bergman (@ronenbergman) March 19, 2020
Israel has imposed some of the strictest emergency measures in the world. Relative to its size, it is among the countries worst affected by coronavirus.
Protestors also believe the incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is obstructing oversight of its measures and the installation of a new Knesset.
On Wednesday, Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein adjourned the Israeli parliament until next Monday, thereby postponing key votes that would have curtailed the government’s freedom of manoeuvre in responding to the crisis.
It came after the newly elected Knesset members sought a vote to elect a new speaker and create committees that would oversee coronavirus measures and management.
Many vehicles in the convoy to Jerusalem travelled under the slogan "Saving the Knesset".
Israeli elections two weeks ago turned the Netanyahu coalition into a parliamentary minority. Blue & White, the opposition party, said in a press conference on Thursday that it would bring a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court on what it sees as Mr Edelstein’s obstruction.
עוצרים את שיירת המחאה שבדרכה לכנסת. מאות אזרחים במכוניות עם דגלים שחורים יצאו למחאה שקטה נגד הפגיעה בדמוקרטיה בחסות הקורונה, ע״פ הנחיות משרד הבריאות (כולם בתוך האוטו בלבד), ומונעים מהם להפגין pic.twitter.com/x8ABDAHtN8— Noa Landau נעה לנדאו (@noa_landau) March 19, 2020
The Israeli Supreme Court is currently hearing petitions that the digital surveillance of Israelis and whether the decision to adjourn the Knesset is unconstitutional.
Anthropologist Yuval Noah Harari wrote that Israel had become “the first coronavirus dictatorship”.
The author of the global bestseller Sapiens wrote: “In Israel emergency decrees are issued by someone who has no mandate from the people. This is a dictatorship”.
The Israel Democracy Institute criticised Mr Edelstein’s decision to prevent the formation of Knesset committees as an “unacceptable disregard for the basic rules of democracy”.