- Three men have been released after they were arrested for taking part in an anti-Netanyahu protest.
- Netanyahu and Gantz have clashed over the arrest of the men.
- Gantz has said that the right to protest must be protected.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, his partner in the coalition government, have clashed following the arrest of three protesters demonstrating against Netanyahu’s leadership. They were arrested at a “black flag” rally against Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption.
Although the trial has started, some believe that the retention of his position as prime minister will undermine the process. Netanyahu has openly attacked Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and accused him of trying to subvert justice and derail his political career.
Israeli law does not require the prime minister to step down if accused of corruption. This loophole may allow him to influence the justice system while he is in power.
Following the recent arrest of the three protesters, Netanyahu made a few remarks about the incident to the media and then dismissed the reporters. They were, however, asked to come back after Gantz lamented not having his view on the matter broadcasted. He rebuked attempts to undermine the freedom of speech and to protest.
“Freedom to demonstrate, is in my opinion, a sacred right. Everyone who sits at this table believes in it. We must of course on the one hand allow people to continue to demonstrate, and on the other give backing to the Israel Police and the rule of law.”
Netanyahu responded by underlining that freedom to protest was not at stake. He underscored that he never objected to demonstrations and distanced himself from claims that he had tried to interfere with law enforcement decisions on the matter. The following is an excerpt from his statement.
“Freedom of demonstration is not at stake. In the toughest of moments, at the height of the lockdown, we allowed it. The claims we want to limit it are absurd. I do not interfere with police decisions. The condemnation of rioters should be equal on all parts of the political spectrum.”
The three men arrested were Amir Haskel, who is a former air force general, and two other men, Saadi Ben Sheetrit and Gil Danieli. They were released afterJerusalem Magistrate’s Court judge Orna Sandler-Eitan ordered for their release. The police had sought a 15-day ban from Jerusalem. She said that enforcing such a ban would constitute to muzzling free speech.
Following his release, Haskel said at a press conference in Tel Aviv that his arrest was a small price to pay for the freedom to protest.
“The reason I was arrested was a will to silence the protest against a criminally charged man. The right to protest is a fundamental right in a democratic country. No one can prevent me and my friends from protesting so long as we’ve done nothing wrong.”
Hundreds of protesters had gathered outside Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem calling for the release of the arrested men. Some of the demonstrators held up placards describing the prime minister as a “crime minister.”