Several hundred people demonstrated Friday outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, the latest in ongoing protests calling for Benjamin Netanyahu’s resignation over alleged corruption and the response to the coronavirus pandemic.
As dusk fell, protesters were holding a Shabbat service at the scene. There were no reports of clashes with police.
Meanwhile, police on Friday put up barriers outside Netanyahu’s private home in Caesarea after the Shin Bet security service received information that some protesters could target the house, Channel 13 reported.
The agency declined to comment and police said that no applications to protest at the site have been received.
The rally came a day after the latest protest against the premier devolved into violence Thursday night, with police using water cannons to disperse rowdy demonstrators and arresting or detaining 55 people as they cleared the area.
All 55 were released by Friday, most of them with limitations barring them from such protests for the next week to 10 days, and one to house arrest with police alleging he had attacked them.
Officers sprayed protesters with high-pressure water cannons in a bid to move people off the streets after midnight. Some protesters who were peacefully dispersing were shot in the back by the water cannons, and activists said police left them with nowhere to go.
“Despite the legitimate protest by many participants, who dispersed on their own, protesters [remained] who refused to disperse after police declared several times that the demonstration had ended and asked protesters to leave on their own, and so police were forced to act to disperse them and restore public order,” a police spokesperson said in a statement.
Anti-Netanyahu protesters have been holding regular rallies outside his official residence on Jerusalem’s Balfour Street, calling on the premier to resign due to his indictment on corruption charges. Rallies against Netanyahu’s economic policies during the coronavirus pandemic have also been held, though mostly in Tel Aviv.
There have been occasional scenes of violence at recent protests, and police were reportedly wary of further clashes. Protesters have also accused police of using excessive force during the demonstrations.
Police put the number of protesters Thursday at 4,000, according to the Ynet news site. Demonstrators held signs with slogans including, “We won’t stop fighting for the state,” “I have no other land,” and “Fed up with corruption.”
Yotam, a 27-year-old Hebrew University student, said this was his fourth time attending the anti-government rallies. “I feel like this government is cheating us. They’re telling us a story which serves one man in power,” Yotam said.
Noga, a Haifa native who lives in Jerusalem, told The Times of Israel that the most important thing for her now was for the country to be unified. “We can see that the behavior of the government right now is dividing the country. That’s why it’s important for me to be here,” she said.
A number of female protesters at the rally removed their shirts and held up signs with the words “tits photograph better than…” followed by various words written on their chests, including “occupation” and “police violence.” One held a sign calling for “Justice for Iyad,” in reference to Iyad Halak, an autistic Palestinian man killed by police in Jerusalem in late May.
Their act appeared to be inspired by a protester who raised a firestorm by removing her shirt on Tuesday while on a menorah statue near the Knesset.
A small counter-protest of Netanyahu supporters was also held nearby.
Among those who came out were members of the La Familia Beitar Jerusalem soccer hooligan club, Hebrew media reported.
Haaretz reported that some anti-Netanyahu protesters said they were attacked by members of the gang: “There were four people from La Familia who yelled ‘It’s a shame that Hitler didn’t finish the job,’ and ‘You don’t deserve someone like Bibi, you deserve someone like Hitler.’ Then a bigger group approached me and I started filming them, pushed me and knocked my phone out of my hand,” one left-wing activist was quoted saying.
A video shared by Channel 13’s Tal Shorrer also showed the group singing a song in praise of Yitzhak Rabin assassin Yigal Amir.
Police had granted permission for the protests to continue until 11 p.m., with acting police chief Motti Cohen urging the sides to “maintain a protest free of violence and unrest and to adhere to police instructions.”
Netanyahu in a Thursday night press conference on the coronavirus, held during the protest, said to the demonstrators: “Don’t drag the state into anarchy, violence, and destruction of property. Don’t drag it into attacks on police; they’re doing their jobs.”
Source: TOI Staff