Protesters rallied Saturday evening at a number of sites across Israel as part of ongoing demonstrations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his indictment on graft charges and his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Hebrew media reports put turnout in the thousands, with Army Radio estimating the crowd size at 10,000 protesters.
The main protest was held outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, which has been the center of the demonstrations against the premier. Hebrew media reports put turnout in the thousands, far less than in recent weeks. It wasn’t immediately clear what was behind the drop.
It was the eighth consecutive week that a large anti-Netanyahu protest was held there.
Among those attending the protest were representatives of event hall owners, event producers, and suppliers for entertainment events, who have been hurt economically by the lockdown measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak. The unemployed protesters demanded the government allow them to return to work, according to the Kan public broadcaster.
A few hundred people also protested near Netanyahu’s private residence in the coastal city of Caesarea.
Ahead of the evening’s demonstrations, protesters rallied at bridges, highway overpasses and traffic junctions around the country.
In the northern city of Hadera, police detained a suspect for throwing poppers toward a group of anti-Netanyahu protesters, Hebrew media reports said.
The “Black Flag” anti-corruption group, one of the organizers of the protests, issued a statement ahead of the demonstrations dismissing Thursday’s US-brokered agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates to normalize diplomatic ties.
“While the prime minister is busy arranging flights to pools in Abu Dhabi for himself, the people of Israel are collapsing from the failure to manage the economic and health crises. No flights to the Gulf, jobs in Israel!” the group said.
Demonstrators at a protest Friday outside the Prime Minister’s Residence said they wouldn’t let news of the historic deal with the UAE distract from what they said were Netanyahu’s failures.
Protesters have been holding regular rallies for several months outside the Prime Minister’s Residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem, as well as in Tel Aviv and other areas, calling on the premier to resign due to his indictment on corruption charges.
They have been joined in recent weeks by people protesting the government’s economic policies during the coronavirus pandemic, with crowds in the thousands and rising.
Netanyahu is on trial for a series of cases in which he allegedly received lavish gifts from billionaire friends and traded regulatory favors with media moguls for more favorable coverage of himself and his family. The prime minister has denied any wrongdoing, accusing the media and law enforcement of a witch hunt to oust him from office.
Last Saturday tens of thousands took part in protests across the country. The main protest took place outside the Prime Minister’s Residence. Hebrew media reports put turnout at over 15,000 people, while organizers estimated the crowd at some 32,000 people, based on the number of armbands given out to demonstrators as they entered the square.
The demonstration appeared to be the largest yet of a growing movement that has seen thousands take to streets to rally against Netanyahu over the past month.
The number of families with children was especially prominent at the Jerusalem demonstration, in addition to the groups of young people.
Many activists dressed up as extraterrestrials, in mocking homage to the prime minister’s son Yair Netanyahu, who earlier last week derided the protesters as “aliens.”
Representatives of independent businesspeople joined the protest, as no separate demonstration of those battered economically by the pandemic was held. Organizers instead called for a single, unified demonstration to be held at the Prime Minister’s residence.
Header: Israelis protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside his official residence in Jerusalem on August 15, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)