Besieged Benjamin Netanyahu Blames Israel’s Protests Over Epstein’s Money

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A perfect storm of grievances has enveloped Israel just as a second coronavirus lockdown seems inevitable and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks poised to lose control of his government.Demonstrations took place in more than 200 cities and highway junctions across Israel on Saturday evening, and Sunday, Netanyahu said money from the late pedophile Jeffrey Epstein was funding the growing protests.

Badass Netanyahu leads a rickety coalition formed only in May with former rival Benny Gantz, a former centrist army chief, after a year and a half during which the Israelis went to the polls three times, without ever giving either leader enough support to form a government without the other.

On Sunday morning, Netanyahu’s only comment on the rallies, which drew thousands to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, was to repeat a conspiracy theory that the Wexner Foundation, an American philanthropy, funnels Epstein’s money. to former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, whom he used to “organize the protests”.

Police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse peaceful protesters, arresting 28.

Netanyahu has reason to be shocked, and the Israelis have reason to be frustrated: Since May 17, when it appeared the country had defeated the coronavirus and a six-week lockdown had been lifted, the COVID-19 cases have soared to unprecedented levels.

Hospitals are filling up. Unemployment, which was 4% at the start of March, is close to 25%, and the government has no plans to help the unemployed or save the economy. But the elephant in the room remains Netanyahu himself, whose trial for fraud, corruption and breach of trust resumed Sunday morning.

The most theatrical part of his trial, when Netanyahu will be required to be in court three days a week, to hear testimony from many of his closest associates, will begin in January 2021.

Netanyahu and three former associates were charged in January in three cases involving the Prime Minister’s alleged efforts to control various aspects of the Israeli media. He is the first Israeli prime minister charged with crimes while in office.

Netanyahu went to great lengths to try to defeat his trial, including accusing his attorney general of having committed a coup, trying to pass legislation that would have granted him immunity, asking for a special parliamentary immunity and, for the first time in the history of Israel, closure of two branches of government.

Bypassing parliamentary approval, Netanyahu used acquired emergency powers to enforce national corona quarantine to shut down the judiciary and the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, a measure never seen before in Israel, not even in wartime, and postponed the start of his trial for two months.

Opponents accused him of using the pandemic as a cover for a takeover. In March, dozens of Israelis began to assemble at the crossroads of highways or outside the Knesset carrying the blue and white flag of Israel adorned with a small black flag warning of the threat to democracy Israeli.

In April, thousands of people participated in weekly black flag protests across the country, and the initiative gained international attention for its dramatic and socially distant protests in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square.

The popular movement has become an important political actor. Every Saturday night, it draws tens of thousands of people to Rabin Square, Paris Square in Jerusalem, in front of Netanyahu’s official residence, and at highway junctions across the country.

Netanyahu and his allies are clearly nervous. On Sunday, Miki Zohar, the chairman of the Prime Minister’s coalition, tweeted that with the pandemic on the cover, the protests are “a coordinated propaganda campaign orchestrated by leftists, with almost complete media support, to overthrow the right “.

Zohar grimly added that “there are many forces that want to thwart” Netanyahu.

Leaders of Saturday’s protests demanded Netanyahu’s resignation over criminal charges, and many participants wore masks bearing the words CRIME MINISTER or carried posters accusing him of acting like the KGB.

Others sarcastically invited Yair Netanyahu, the eldest son of Israel’s Prime Minister and Donald Trump Jr., to “party” in the streets. Yair Netanyahu, 28, is behind his father’s conspiracy theory, Epstein. On Friday, he called the Nazi protesters. On Saturday, he said Israeli officials – especially the attorney general – were “terrorists”.

Barely four months ago, Benjamin Netanyahu was at the top of the world. With his trial postponed, Israel under curfew and COVID-19 under control, he boasted that Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurtz told an interviewer he was “thanking God” for a conversation he had with Netanyahu , in which the Israeli warned him that the new coronavirus could overtake Europe, and urged that he “wake up and do something. ”

“Israel needs an emergency corona government,” Netanyahu said two months later when he inaugurated his new government. “It’s the only way to move forward.”

Yet since its inception, the coronavirus cabinet has been about as functional as the Keystone Kops. The reckless reopening of schools exuberantly announced by Netanyahu during the presentation of his new ministers sparked the COVID-19 tsunami for which the government was sadly not prepared.

On Friday morning, Netanyahu ordered all restaurants to close, only to be reversed this afternoon, frightened by a mutiny by restaurateurs threatening to take to the streets if ordered to close. The weekend was still a wash for most restaurants as customers had already been told not to come.

In a recent Zoom meeting with small business owners and entrepreneurs, Netanyahu was criticized for this dysfunction.

“There is a feeling that this crisis is not being managed,” said one man. Another added: “We will not survive. In leaked footage, a woman is seen shouting at the Prime Minister, “We need the money now, before the 10th, because people are falling apart.” I have 150 workers. We don’t know what to do.

Netanyahu then tried to blame Eran Yaakov, head of Israel’s tax administration, who was also on call. “Eran, these people don’t lie. Cut them now. Or not the checks, the money transfers. ”

A July 14 poll by the Israeli Institute of Democracy showed that 75% of Israelis were “disappointed, angry or alienated by the government’s handling of the coronavirus.” Confidence in Netanyahu has dropped to 29%.

Orel Kimche, a chef from Tel Aviv, announced the closure of his beloved restaurant, Popina, in an angsty Instagram post to Netanyahu. “Now it’s really personal and really political,” he wrote after struggling and not getting government help to keep his business alive. Announcing the closure and dismissal of its staff, Kimchi said her evening would be spent with family and close friends. “We are going to sit here, eat, drink, rejoice and wish the day when you are no longer in power, when you are far from the eyes and far from the heart.” You have lost all semblance of humanity… You have crushed people with your own hands – never forget that !!! You made people lose property, lose their lives. ”

After talks with the finance ministry failed, underpaid and understaffed Israeli nurses went on strike on Monday. The teachers’ union is threatening to prevent schools from reopening on September 1 if health and safety concerns are not addressed.

New COVID-19 diagnoses jumped from around 10 cases per day in mid-May to more than 2,000 uncontrollable cases this weekend, as Israel recorded its 409th death from the disease.

The tracking system deployed by the Israeli security agency, at Netanyahu’s insistence, to track the whereabouts of citizens diagnosed with COVID-19 only brought him stigma and ridicule. No other democracy has adopted such a measure. The Israel Privacy Authority, a monitoring agency, criticized civilian use of a tool created to track terrorism suspects. Then, an early bug resulted in healthcare workers being fired home. This week, the Department of Health admitted that 60% of those calling to be identified as people exposed to COVID-19 are in fact false alarms.

No “tsar corona” manages Israel’s efforts to fight the virus. Gantz’s offer to use the logistics branch of the military failed when the candidate realized he would be used as a puppet – or as a fall guy.

There is no economic plan. A first plan, granting each Israeli a single lump sum payment of $ 218, was ridiculed and widely criticized before being abandoned. A new nearly $ 2 billion plan approved by ministers on Sunday may not have enough Knesset support to be adopted.

“Netanyahu is losing his grip,” writes political analyst Chemi Shalev. “Alone at the top, Netanyahu bears the brunt of the Israeli summer of fear, disgust and discontent … Israel’s resurgent coronavirus pandemic is shaking the foundations of Israeli society and politics as we know them. “

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