In a move that has sparked controversy and accusations of curbing the freedom of protest, Chief Avi Biton, the commander of the Central Police District, has imposed restrictions on demonstrations near the homes of ten members of the Knesset and ministers. The restrictions were implemented to address concerns raised during a government meeting about the lack of enforcement during protests near ministerial residences and following requests from members of the Knesset to limit demonstrations outside their homes.
The affected ministers and Knesset members include Justice Minister Yariv Levin, Health and Interior Minister Moshe Arbel, Transportation Minister Miri Regev, Education Minister Yoav Kish, and Environment Minister Idit Silman. Additionally, Knesset members David Bitan, Moshe Saada, Danny Danon, Hanoch Milbitsky, and Eli Dellal are also subject to the imposed restrictions.
Under the new guidelines, demonstrations are limited to three days per week and specific hours. Protesters are required to maintain a considerable distance from the ministers' homes, usually gathering in squares, groves, or nearby central areas. Furthermore, protesters are allowed to use noise-making equipment, such as megaphones or drums, for a maximum of two hours. The permitted hours for making noise are specified as not during rest hours and no later than 9:30 p.m. Previously, protests were allowed according to the "Noise Law," which allowed demonstrations between 6:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m., with a two-hour pause between 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.
A "silent protest" of up to five people is allowed in a closer location, tens of meters away from the ministers' houses. The decision to impose these restrictions was made with the approval of the police's legal advisors and in accordance with previous High Court rulings on protests outside the houses of former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and former Defense Minister Benny Gantz. The police cite the need to balance the freedom of protest with the requirement to allow elected officials to conduct their daily lives undisturbed.
However, protest groups have raised objections, claiming that the restrictions undermine their right to protest peacefully. Organizers argue that previous demonstrations were coordinated with local police and held at a significant distance from the homes of ministers. They believe the new measures favor the government's interests and put pressure on the police to act in favor of the ministers.
Attorney Gonen Ben Yitzhak, representing the "Protest Detainee Array," contends that the police should only limit protests when there is a clear threat to public peace, which, he argues, is not the case here. He accuses Chief Avi Biton of using the restrictions to gain favor with the government in anticipation of the next commissioner election.
As tensions escalate, the debate over balancing the right to protest with the privacy and safety of elected officials continues to be a contentious issue in Israel's political landscape. The imposed restrictions have drawn both support and condemnation from various quarters, adding to the complexity of the situation.