Israelis protesting judicial reform force Netanyahu airlift

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had to be airlifted on Thursday to the country's main international airport for an official overseas trip, after throngs of cars and protesters prevented him from driving there.

The demonstrations were part of nationwide protests underway for more than two months against Netanyahu and his government's contentious plan to overhaul the judiciary.

Demonstrators had made blocking Netanyahu's route to the airport a centerpiece of their intensifying efforts to oppose the legal changes, and the optics of the Israeli leader having to make alternate travel plans were a win for the protest movement.

The helicopter ride, far from the snarling traffic triggered by the protest, was also sure to deepen Netanyahu's reputation as being out of touch with Israelis at a time when the country finds itself torn apart over the government plan and the economy is slowing.

Thursday's disruptions also took a toll on visiting U.S. Secretary of State Lloyd Austin, whose schedule was rearranged to keep his engagements close to the airport.

The protesters, launching a “day of resistance to dictatorship,” descended on the country's main international airport waving Israeli flags, blocking the road leading to the departures area with their cars.

Regular flights were not interrupted, an airport spokeswoman said, although some travelers said they had to leave their cars behind the protesters' convoy and reach the terminal by foot.

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