Anti-Netanyahu Protester Pepper-sprayed as Demonstrations Resume Across Israel

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Anti-Netanyahu protest in Jerusalem, last week.
Anti-Netanyahu protest in Jerusalem, last week.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Hundreds of people took on Saturday to the streets in Jerusalem and across Israel for the 36th week, protesting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and their handling of the coronavirus crisis.

In the Tel Aviv suburb of Herzliya, police said they detained an 18-year-old man suspected of pepper-spraying an anti-Netanyahu protester in the city.

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The 50-year-old protester, who was taken to hospital, told Haaretz that pro-Netanyahu activists "were shouting at us, 'traitor leftists' and at some point an argument broke out and it got violent. My wife was beaten and someone sprayed my eye and ran away."

Footage of the attack in Herzliya.Credit: Black Flag protest movement

This is the 13th time anti-Netanyahu protesters were pepper-sprayed during demonstrations, since the weekly anti-corruption protests began last year. Charges were filed only in two incidents.

Some protest groups have argued that travel restrictions the cabinet approved for Jerusalem, as part of a series of measures to limit gatherings over the Purim holiday, were meant to limit participation in the main demonstration near the prime minister’s official residence.

According to the cabinet’s decision, all public transportation and organized shuttles to and from Jerusalem weren’t allowed to operate starting Saturday at 6 P.M. Services are allowed to resume on Monday.

Last week, protesters gathered at the Strings Bridge in Jerusalem, and marched to the prime minister's official residence in Balfour Street, the epicenter of the protest.

Hundreds more walked through Cesaerea, the upscale coastal resort town where Netanyahu's private residence is situated. Like in other weeks, they were joined by many smaller groups at bridges and junctions across the country.

Earlier this month, Netanyahu appeared in court to respond to charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three corruption cases. He pleaded not guilty.

'Corrupt alliance'

The Crime Minister protest group said ahead of Saturday’s protest, “60 percent of Israelis have had enough of your government and your corrupt alliance with the ultra-Orthodox and the Kahanists.”

The group was referring to a surplus vote agreement signed earlier this month between Netanyahu's Likud party and the far-right Religious Zionism party. 

Bezalel Smotrich, the chairman of far- right National Union party, and Itamar Ben-Gvir, the head of the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit party, announced they would run on a joint slate in the election at the urging of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, creating the Religious Zionism party.

Netanyahu seeks to create a big enough right-wing bloc that would recommend President Reuven Rivlin to give him the first chance to form a government after the election.

Otzma Yehudit is made up of former disciples and political descendants of Meir Kahane – the infamous American-rabbi-turned-Knesset-member whose vitriolic racism against Arabs got his Kach party banned from running in the 1988 election.

After Netanyahu convinced Otzma Yehudit to join forces with the Habayit Hayehudi party for the election in April of 2019, AIPAC, the most powerful pro-Israel lobby group in Washington, called it a "racist and reprehensible party."

Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg also slammed Netanyahu for "bring(ing) extremist racists into the Knesset just to escape trial for serious corruption charges."

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