Despite a strict lockdown, Israelis protest against Netanyahu
Thousands of Israelis gathered outside the official residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday night to demand his resignation, pressing ahead with weeks of protests against the embattled Israeli leader despite a strict new lockdown order.
According to reports from Israeli media, protesters also gathered in Tel Aviv and Caesarea – as well as online – and organisers were quoted as saying that around 16,000 joined the demonstrations in person.
Even though Netanyahu has pushed hard for a ban on the demonstrations, claiming they pose a threat to public safety, and he has threatened to declare a state of emergency to halt the unrest. But his opponents accuse him of using the health crisis as a pretext to put a halt to weeks of demonstrations against him.
However, protesters at Saturday night’s gathering were noisy but orderly, with many standing in marked spots to conform with social distancing rules. Protest leaders urged people to keep a safe distance from one another, and the crowd stretched for blocks along a main road as police patrols looked on.
For over three months, thousands of people have thronged the streets of central Jerusalem near Netanyahu’s residence, calling on him to step down. Protesters say Netanyahu shouldn’t remain in office when he is on trial for corruption charges and accuse him of bungling the response to the coronavirus crisis. Many of the protesters are young, educated Israelis who have lost their jobs because of an economic downturn.
On his part Netanyahu released a video defending the new lockdown, acknowledging that mistakes “absolutely” were made in recent months, but saying there was no choice but to impose the restrictions. He made no mention of the protests, but urged people to stay out of synagogues and only pray outdoors on Yom Kippur.