Thousands of protesters once again took to the streets near the official residence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a new show of force as weeks of protests calling for his resignation showed no signs of abating.
Protesters were angry with the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis and said Netanyahu should not remain in power during his corruption trial.
In central Jerusalem on Saturday evening, protesters waved Israeli flags, sounded horns and chanted slogans against Netanyahu.
Some held posters that read “Minister of Crime” or called him “offline,” as he was disguised as visitors from space, in a move to mock comments by Netanyahu’s son Yair, who sparked a public outcry this week when he described the protesters as “strangers.”
Harry Fawcett of Al Jazeera, reporting the rally in Jerusalem, described it as ” another very loud and substantial protest “.
“Once again it seems very dominated by the Israeli political left. We see the black flags of the pro-democracy, anti-Netanyahu movement and others who have long protested against his post as prime minister saying he should step down due to the fact that he is on trial ”
Although Netanyahu has tried to play down the protests, the rallies only seem to be getting stronger – they are the biggest since protests began in 2011 against the country’s high cost of living.
After acting quickly to contain the coronavirus earlier this year, critics believe Israel has reopened its economy too quickly.
The country is now facing a rise in infections – confirmed cases topped 82,000, including 592 deaths – while unemployment has climbed to more than 20%.
Self-employed workers, whose businesses have been hit by the economic fallout from the pandemic, also joined Saturday’s protest.
Netanyahu called the protesters “leftists” and “anarchists” and accused local media of bolstering the protests by giving them wide coverage.
Israel’s prime minister was sworn in for a fifth term in May after reaching a coalition deal four months ago with centrist Benny Gantz, his main rival in three inconclusive elections since April 2019.
Netanyahu, who heads the right-wing Likud party, has often complained about press bias against him, and some of the charges he faces in a corruption lawsuit have been linked to alleged attempts to gain favorable coverage from media barons in exchange for state favors.
The prime minister denied wrongdoing in the three corruption cases he was subjected to.