Israel Election: Anti-Netanyahu Activists Announce Dismantling of Jerusalem Protest Camp

Ein Matzav protest movement members say they are shifting focus to increasing voter turnout, while a statue of a demonstrator put up at the nearby Paris Square is once again removed

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The protest camp outside the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem, in September.
The protest camp outside the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem, in September.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

The leaders of the protest movement against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Sunday that they would take down the tent encampment across from the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem, nine months after it was erected.

Members of the Ein Matzav protest movement said the encampment's work is done now that the demonstrations brought about the fall of the government and led to new elections. Now, they said, they will focus on increasing voter turnout on Tuesday.

The founder of Ein Matzav, Amir Haskel, told Haaretz that if Netanyahu wins the election and forms the next government, the encampment will be rebuilt.

“There could now be a dead period of three months. We didn’t want to be led, we wanted to lead. I will go back to standing with my sign in Yavneh until we decide on the next move,” Haskel added.

The encampment was built in May 2020, and the activities there gained momentum after the police tried to evacuate it a number of times and after Haskel was arrested in June.

The Knesset dissolved in December and early elections were called after the Knesset could not pass the 2020 budget, and after Likud and Kahol were unable to reach a compromise on it.

On Sunday morning, a statue of a protester placed in Jerusalem's Paris Square, near the prime minister’s Balfour Street residence. It was removed within a few hours.

Police watch as the 'Hero of Israel' statue is removed in Jerusalem, Sunday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

The statue, titled "Gibor Yisrael" ("Hero of Israel"), depicts a kneeling demonstrator clutching an Israeli flag. It was first placed at the square in December by its sculptor, Itay Zalait, and immediately removed. The Jerusalem municipality explained that it was taken down because it was put up without a permit and could be dangerous.

Overnight Saturday, Zalait reinstalled the statue in Paris Square, and requested that it remain there until Election Day. He also placed chairs around it, as well as stations where people could tie themselves to the statue, in an attempt to encourage people to shield the statue from removal with their bodies.

Zalait and another person who tied himself to the statue were questioned by police on suspicion of interfering with police duty, but were both released about an hour later. Zalait told Haaretz that the Jerusalem municipality’s statue committee refused to place the installation in the square because “provocative art has no place there."

In response to the report, the municipality said that “This time, too, the location and way in which the display was placed present a safety risk in a public space to residents and passersby at the site, as well as to the protesters expected to come to the square.”

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