As they do for weeks, thousands of protesters flocked to Balfour street in Jerusalem on Saturday night, near the official residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The anti-Netanyahu protests showed no signs of slowing as they call on Netanyahu to resign, saying he should not remain in office due to lack of leadership of the country’s coronavirus crisis, while on trial for corruption charges.
Also join the protests, self-employed workers whose businesses have been hurt by the economic crisis.
Every week, as Netanyahu has tried to downplay the protests, the power of protest only appears to be getting stronger.
In Jerusalem, demonstrators chanted slogans against Netanyahu. Some held posters that said “Crime Minister” or called him “out of touch.” A large banner projected onto a nearby building said “Balfour is in our hands,” a reference to the street where Netanyahu lives. others blew horns and held Israeli flags. Many carry “black flags”, one of the grassroots movements.
Netanyahu’s son, Yair, this week caused a public uproar when he described the protesters as “aliens.” Many protesters dressed up as visitors from outer space to mock the comments.
The demonstrators accuse Netanyahu of corruption and say that he and the country’s bloated coalition government have failed to recognize the suffering of its citizens.
Israeli media estimated some 15,000-20,000 people in Jerusalem another 1,500 protested at an intersection near Netanyahu’s beach house in Caesaria, and more gatherings took place on bridges and at intersections across the country.
There was a heavy police presence at the demonstrations but no reports of violence in the loud but orderly protests.
The rallies against Netanyahu are the largest Israel has seen since 2011 protests over the country’s high cost of living.
On top of those events, Netanyahu’s Likud Party announced that Sunday’s weekly Cabinet meeting had been called off because of disagreements with the chief coalition partner, the rival Blue&White Party. The sides have been feuding over the country’s national budget, and if they cannot reach a deal by late this month, Israel would be plunged into an early election.
Likud and Blue and White have repeatedly squabbled since forming a coalition government in May. While Blue and White leader Benny Gantz has defended the protesters, Netanyahu has dismissed them as “leftists” and “anarchists” and inciting violence against him. He also accuses the local media of strengthening the demonstrations by giving them heavy coverage.
While the demonstrations have largely been peaceful, there have been signs of violence in previous weeks. Some protesters have clashed with police, accusing them of using excessive force, while small gangs of Netanyahu supporters affiliated with a far-right group have assaulted demonstrators. But recent gatherings have taken place without incident.
The demonstrations, taking place several times a week at locations around the country, are organized by a loose-knit network of activist groups. Some object to Netanyahu remaining in office while he is on trial. He has been charged with fraud, breach of trust, and accepting bribes in a series of scandals.
AP and JBN staff
Read more about: Anti-Netanyahu protests