Thousands of protesters gathered outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence and crowded the streets of central Jerusalem, while weeks of protests against the Israeli leader seemed to be taking hold.
The demonstration in central Jerusalem, along with small rallies in Tel Aviv, near the Netanyahu beach house in central Israel and at dozens of busy intersections nationwide, was one of the biggest turnouts in weeks of protests.
Thousands of Israelis took to the streets, asking Netanyahu to step down, protesting his management of the country’s coronavirus crisis and saying he should not remain in office while on trial for corruption charges.
Although Netanyahu has tried to minimize the protests, the meetings twice a week show no signs of slowing down.
Israeli media estimates that at least 1
Protesters hoisted Israeli flags and blew loud horns as they marched. Many had posters that said “Minister of Crime” and “Bibi Go Home” or accused Netanyahu of not being in contact with the public.
Hundreds of people remained in the area well after midnight, ignoring police calls to leave.
Riot forces moved into the area and began to free people. As of Sunday morning, most of the remaining people seemed to be leaving in peace, but the police were seen dragging activists away.
Clashes with the police
The rallies against Netanyahu are the largest that Israel has seen since 2011 protests against the country’s high cost of living.
Netanyahu rejected the protesters as “leftist” and “anarchist”.
Last Saturday, his Likud party released a statement accusing the two Israeli private TV stations of giving “free and endless publicity” to the demonstrators and exaggerating the importance of the meetings.
While the demonstrations have been largely peaceful, there have been signs of violence in the past few days.
Some protesters clashed with the police, accusing them of using excessive force, while small gangs of Netanyahu supporters affiliated to a far-right group attacked the protesters. Netanyahu said protesters are inciting violence against him.
Israeli police have arrested around twenty far-right activists in recent days and police have said they are on high alert for violence during the demonstrations.
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.
The demonstrations are organized by a dense network of activist groups. Some object that Netanyahu remains in office while on trial. He was accused of fraud, breach of trust and acceptance of bribes in a series of scandals. Many carry black flags, the name of the basic movement.
Many protesters, including many unemployed young Israelis, accuse Netanyahu of mistreating the coronavirus crisis and the economic damage it has caused.
After moving quickly to contain the virus earlier in the year, many believe that Israel reopened its economy too quickly, leading to a spike in cases.
The country is now facing record levels of coronavirus, while unemployment has risen to over 20 percent.
As of Sunday, more than 72,000 coronavirus cases have been reported in Israel with over 500 confirmed deaths.