A Somber Mood Settles Over Israel’s Antigovernment Protesters

The roads around the Parliament and Supreme Court in Jerusalem were nearly deserted on Tuesday morning after chaotic late-night scenes of protesters facing off against police on horseback and armed with water cannons.

Demonstrators who camped out for days in a park nearby had packed up quietly after the city served them with an eviction order, leaving no trace of their tent city. A small knot of people waved blue and white Israeli flags and a rainbow flag at a junction not far away, but the police wouldn’t allow them to approach the Parliament.

One passing car blared its support. But the driver of another shouted “Only Bibi!” out the window in support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Some of the protesters had driven four hours to get to Jerusalem from the far north the day after the far-right, ultrareligious government passed a law limiting the powers of the high court, the first step in a larger judicial overhaul plan that opponents say will undermine Israeli democracy and the rule of law.

Quiet mostly prevailed around the country on Tuesday, with many going back to work and resuming their normal routines. The mood among opposition supporters was glum, a moment of defeat — a gut punch — after months of fierce defiance.

Though deflated, many were also determined to fight on.

“There is the shock of defeat and a reassessment of what tools we can use to fight this law,” said Naama Ella Levy, 29, an agriculture worker from northern Israel.

Matan Ben-Gera, 40, from Ein Zivan, a Jewish settlement in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights near the Syrian frontier, was one of the few protesters still out on the streets in Jerusalem.

“I’m here only because I’m a father,” he said, adding that he particularly feared for the future freedoms of his small daughters.

“We fear that the ministers and the government will create more and more division. I want to live in peace, first among my fellow Jews and then with our neighbors,” he said. “I am worried.”

Supporters expressed relief over the new law and argued that it only strengthened democracy by giving more power to elected officials and less to unelected judges. Amid what many Israelis view as the deepest social rift since the modern state was established, some of them even empathized with the other side.

“Nobody wants, heaven forbid, a civil war,” Ariel Kahana, a political commentator, wrote in Israel Hayom, a right-wing daily, on Tuesday. “Nobody is gloating.”

Many of those who have been protesting against the government for 29 weeks straight are military reservists and veterans who say they are in it for the long haul.

“This is not a sprint,” said Aloni Cohen, 64, a retired technical officer in the Navy’s submarine unit. “It’s a marathon. Like a submarine that moves slowly toward its goal.”

Mr. Cohen was manning a tent near Parliament that has served as a base for the protesting reservists. He said Tuesday that he and his armored corps comrades would pack up because the Parliament was about to go into summer recess.

“There’s a feeling that we lost the battle, but we have a whole campaign ahead of us,” said Gil Syrkin, 64, a former chief of an armored brigade in the reserves and a teacher who lives in the north. On Saturday, he joined the last leg of a protest march into Jerusalem.

“We have determination, love and a shared destiny,” he added. “This gives us hope.”

Shortly before the tent city was dismantled, one of the protesters camped out there summed up the sentiment with a handwritten sign scrawled on a piece of cardboard. “Next Steps,” it read. “1. Cry. 2. Fight.”

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