Thousands protested, blocking roads after Ami Eshed said he sacrificed his job rather than order disproportionate force against judicial overhaul protestors.
Thousands of Israelis took to the streets and blocked several major highways across the country on Wednesday night after Tel Aviv police chief Ami Eshed announced his resignation from the force.
He was about to be removed from his post and transferred to a more marginal role, due to what he claimed were “political considerations” and for refusing to use “disproportionate force,” following what critics said was his soft handling of judicial overhaul protesters.
The largest demonstration — in solidarity with Eshed and against the hardline coalition — took place at Tel Aviv’s Ayalon Highway, where police clashed with protesters blocking traffic and lighting bonfires. The thoroughfare was blocked for several hours, before police used force to disperse protesters after midnight.
One driver stuck in traffic decided to plow through the demonstration, injuring at least one protester before being pulled over and arrested by police.
Eshed announced on Wednesday that he was resigning from the police, saying that he was ousted on political grounds.
“With my head held high I am paying an intolerably heavy personal price for my choice to avert a civil war,” Eshed said in a televised statement. “I intend to end my service in the police after an orderly handover to my replacement,” he added.
Referring to National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s demands that he uses a strong hand against demonstrators protesting the government’s judicial overhaul, Eshed said: “I sinned by not being able to meet the expectations of the ministerial level, which included violating the rules, protocols, organisational structure and culture in decision-making and in operational judgment.”
Eshed added that he could have easily met, as he put it, these expectations by using unreasonable force. “We could have cleared [Tel Aviv’s Ayalon Highway] in minutes at the cost of breaking heads and crushing bones … We could have filled the emergency room in Ichilov [Hospital] at the end of every demonstration.”
Instead, Eshed asserted, he advocates restraint.
Tel Aviv Police Chief quits: I paid a price for choosing to prevent a civil war (Haaretz)
Thousands take to the streets after Tel Aviv police chief steps down (Times of Israel)
Photo: Ami Eshed at Police Headquarters in Tel Aviv on Wednesday (David Bachar)