By Rami Amichay

BEN GURION AIRPORT, Israel (Reuters) -Thousands of anti-government protesters converged on Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport on Monday, some of them scuffling with police who sought to keep them from blocking access to the terminal for most flights in and out of the country.

Protesting against a plan by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to overhaul the judiciary, dozens in the crowd entered the arrivals hall dancing and with megaphones chanted, “Democracy!” Police officers eventually escorted them out.

Outside, the sidewalk overflowed with protesters carrying flags, blowing horns and banging drums. A cordon of police lined the road as cars and buses slowly drove past.

Earlier in the day, demonstrators briefly shut off access to a major Israeli seaport.

The legislative push, unveiled after Netanyahu regained power in late December atop a hard-right coalition, has set off unprecedented protests, stirred concerns for Israel’s democratic health and dented the economy.

Police have pledged to keep Ben Gurion operating and an airports authority spokesman said so far there had been no unusual flight delays. Four protesters were arrested.

One notice circulated online called on demonstrators to arrive at Ben Gurion with suitcases and passports, suggesting a ruse for bypassing hundreds of police deployed as reinforcements.

Netanyahu doused some of the furore in March by pausing the legislation and holding compromise talks with the opposition. Those negotiations proved fruitless, and he is now pursuing what he deems a scaled-back version of the overhaul. The opposition says the changes remain dangerous.

Netanyahu has defended the reforms as restoring balance between the various branches of government and redressing what he and his coalition allies see as judicial overreach. Critics fear a bid by Netanyahu to curb court independence even as he argues his innocence in a long-running corruption trial.

The mid-sized Ben Gurion handles 90,000 passengers a day in July, an airport spokesperson said. Minister for police Itamar Ben-Gvir had said that any attempt to paralyse it would constitute “harm to national security”.

Protesters had previously flocked to Ben Gurion in March, attempting to disrupt a visit by U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and preventing Netanyahu from taking off for talks in Italy. Austin ended up cutting his visit short while Netanyahu flew to Rome after reaching Ben Gurion by helicopter.

(Reporting by Rami Amichay, Dan Williams, Ari Rabinovitch and Steven Scheer; Editing by Howard Goller)

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