Police arrest Ethiopian Jewish protester at Tel Aviv demo
Police arrest Ethiopian Jewish protester at Tel Aviv demoBen Kelmer/Flash 90

President Reuven Rivlin has called on demonstrators and police to "show restraint" after last night's clashes in Tel Aviv during protests over discrimination against Ethiopian-Israelis.

At a meeting at his office Monday morning with mayors and heads of the haredi municipalities and regional councils, Rivlin began by first addressing the violence. 

"I cannot but begin with reference to the difficult pictures we saw yesterday and on Saturday evening, to the pain, distress, and anger that arose from the community of Israelis of Ethiopian origin - the majority of whom were born and grew up here in Israel," he said.

The president admitted that the protests were the result of the legitimate grievances of Ethiopian Israelis being ignored, but added that there was no excuse for violence. 

Around 2,000 mostly peaceful demonstrators turned out for the rally, which turned ugly after the clashes began. Some 68 people were injured, and police were forced to use stun grenades to quell the violence - which included at least one police patrol car being overturned by rioters.

Watch - Police car overturned by rioters:

"The protesters, in Jerusalem and in Tel Aviv, revealed an open and raw wound at the heart of Israeli society. The pain of a community crying out over a sense of discrimination, racism, and of being unanswered. 

"We must look directly at this open wound. We have erred. We did not look, and we did not listen enough. Among the protesters on the streets, were some of our finest sons and daughters; outstanding students; those who served in the IDF. We owe them answers. 

“At the same time, it must be said in the clearest of terms. Protests are an essential tool in democracy, but violence is neither the way nor the solution."

Rivlin noted that the protests actually began peacefully, and only escalated into violence later on with the participation of certain radical activists.

He urged both demonstrators and police to maintain order and not allow themselves to be dragged into violent confrontation by "a handful of troublemakers."

"The demonstrators and the police notably maintained restraint throughout the protests, and we must not allow a handful of violent trouble makers to drown-out the legitimate voices of protest," he stated.

"We are not strangers to one another, we are brothers, and we must not deteriorate into a place we will all regret. On the eve of the formation of the new government, we all have an opportunity, and an obligation, to begin a process of healing and repairing of the faults, and of restoring the essential trust of the community in the law enforcement forces.”