Throughout the summer, thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets, calling on Netanyahu to step down, protesting his handling of the country’s coronavirus crisis and saying he should not remain in office during his trial. for corruption. Although Netanyahu has tried to play down the protests, the twice-weekly rallies show no signs of slowing down.Israeli media estimated that at least 10,000 people demonstrated near the official residence in central Jerusalem. Late Saturday, thousands marched through the streets in a noisy but orderly rally. Protesters hoisted Israeli flags and sounded horns as they marched. Many held posters that read “Minister of Crime” and “Bibi Go Home” or accused Netanyahu of being out of touch with the public.
Hundreds of people remained in the area long after midnight, ignoring police calls to leave. Riot control forces moved into the area and started cleaning up people. At 2 a.m., most of the remaining people appeared to be leaving peacefully, but police were seen training activists.
The rallies against Netanyahu are the largest Israel has seen since 2011 against the country’s high cost of living.
Netanyahu dismissed the protesters as leftists and anarchists. Late on Saturday, his Likud party released a statement accusing Israel’s two private television stations of giving free and endless publicity to protesters and of exaggerating the importance of the rallies.
While the protests have been largely peaceful, there have been signs of violence in recent days. Some protesters clashed with police, accusing them of using excessive force, while small gangs of Netanyahu supporters affiliated with a far-right group assaulted protesters. He claimed that the demonstrators were inciting violence against him.
Israeli police have arrested around 20 far-right activists in recent days and police said they were on high alert over violence during the protests. Several arrests of Netanyahu supporters were reported on Saturday, including a man who got out of his car in the northern city of Haifa and threw a stone at a crowd of protesters. Police said a 63-year-old woman was slightly injured.
Many protesters, including many unemployed young Israelis, accuse Netanyau of mismanaging the coronavirus crisis and the economic damage it has caused.
After acting quickly to contain the virus last spring, many believe Israel has reopened its economy too quickly, leading to an increase in cases. The country now faces record levels of coronavirus, as unemployment has climbed to more than 20%.