Thousands of Israelis Protest Against Netanyahu for 31st Consecutive Week

Two months before the election, protesters denounce corruption, authoritarianism ■ Pandemic mishandling worse than the failures that led to Yom Kippur War, protest group says,

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Protesters at a demonstration against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on January 16, 2021.
Protesters at a demonstration against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on January 16, 2021.Credit: Emil Salman

Some 1,500 protesters converged on Jerusalem’s Paris Square on Saturday to protest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the 31st week in a row, two months before the country is scheduled to head to its fourth election in two years.

Protest groups accused Netanyahu of corruption and authoritarianism, and of deeply mishandling the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout. Smaller demonstrations were also held outside Netanyahu's private residence in Caesarea, in Tel Aviv and at hundreds of traffic junctions and bridges throughout the country. 

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Protests near Netanyahu’s official residence began last year, initially demanding his resignation over corruption charges in three cases, for which he is currently on trial. The groups behind the protest have also pointed to Netanyahu’s fiery criticism of Israel's courts and the press as attempts to deliberately undermine democracy.

“The Netanyahu legacy will remain with us for a long time,” said one protester on Saturday, who warned that “the legacy of corruption” was permeating local government, as well. 

Another protester called on leaders of various parties who oppose Netanyahu to unite ahead of the March election. “Ego is the driving factor” of the failure to do this, he said. 

“We came here to live in Israel together with the Arabs and the Christians and everyone who lives here,“ said another protester, an immigrant. “We don’t want to live in a dictatorship, and there is a dictatorship here.”

Ahead of Saturday’s demonstration, protest groups had highlighted the country’s twin economic and health crises. The Crime Minister group criticized the decision to place the entire country under lockdown rather than specific high-infection areas – a move that some have claimed was motivated by a desire not to anger Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox political allies.

Citing the deaths of over 4,000 people, the failure of tens of thousands of businesses, and increasing poverty, Crime Minister said the failures in dealing with the pandemic were worse than the failure that led to the country being unprepared for being attacked in the Yom Kippur War. 

The Kumi Israel youth group said Netanyahu was dealing with petty politics with the purpose of ensuring his political survival at the time of a grave and deadly national crisis.

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