Protesters have been protesting against the prime minister for months over alleged corruption and his government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Tens of thousands of Israelis have demonstrated again that they are demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He was unable to rule during the trial on corruption charges and accused him of mismanaging the response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Protesters gathered in hundreds of locations across Israel on Saturday because a nationwide lockdown prevented them from protesting in the usual location outside of Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem. Current lockdown regulations only allow people to congregate within one kilometer (less than a mile) of their home.
The largest gathering on Habima Square in central Tel Aviv drew thousands of demonstrators blowing horns and beating drums and tambourines. The protesters waved pink and black flags symbolizing various grassroots protest movements. Some of the banners that used Netanyahu’s nickname said, “Bibi, you are destroying my future.” Others read “Go!”
Police reported clashes with protesters in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. At least four have been arrested for violating police barriers, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported.
“Peacemakers collided with officers standing by barriers attacking them while throwing objects at them. A number of officers were injured and treated at the scene, ”Haaretz quoted the police as saying.
The Black Flags movement, which called for protests, said demonstrations were planned in 1,200 locations across the country.
One of the protest groups issued a statement warning that the demonstration was a “warm-up” for another planned outside Netanyahu’s residence next week when the ban on protesting over a kilometer from home is lifted.
Netanyahu is on trial for fraud, breach of trust and taking bribes for his role in a number of scandals. Protesters have held weekly meetings for the past four months to call for his resignation. Netanyahu has denied the charges, accusing the protesters of being “leftists” and “anarchists”.
The marches were also fueled by the government’s response to the pandemic. After the government appeared to contain the outbreak with a tight lockdown earlier this year, it quickly reopened the economy and the infection rate soared. To date, Israel has recorded 289,875 confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,941 deaths, according to a record by Johns Hopkins University.
With infections at record levels, Israel imposed another lockdown last month, further injuring entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs who were a key component of the protests. The economy has been devastated by the closings and many of the protesters are young Israelis who have lost their jobs.
The Netanyahu trial, pandemic and economic crisis are putting pressure on his emergency government, which was formed in May in collaboration with his electoral rival Benny Gantz.
The government should address the coronavirus crisis, and the parties formed it in less than a year after three inconclusive polls. Instead, it was hampered by non-stop fighting.
Last week, the government’s tourism minister resigned from Gantz’s Blue and White Party for failing to contain the outbreak. Lockdown violations by senior government officials, including a cabinet minister from Netanyahu’s Likud and Netanyahu’s wife Sara last week, further undermined public confidence in the country’s decision-makers.