Some 2,000 Israelis took to Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Saturday to protest a unity government deal that leaves Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in power, as he prepares to go on trial for three corruption cases.
The so-called 'Black Flag' protesters maintained a distance from one another, in a bid to comply with the Health Ministry’s coronavirus restrictions. They waved Israeli flags and black flags, and held signs calling out Netanyahu for corruption and telling him and other corrupt politicians to “go home.”
The protesters oppose having Netanyahu as prime minister as long as he is a criminal suspect. The protesters say the unity agreement between Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, which gives Netanyahu influence over the appointment of judges and legal officials, “crushes democracy” and is meant to rescue him from his legal troubles.
A similar, yet much smaller protest, was held in the northern town of Kiryat Tivon, with the participation of about 200 peopole.
A the Tel Aviv protest, former Shin Bet head Carmi Gillon spoke, charging Netanyahu with “destroying Israel’s Knesset.” According to Gilon, the agreement hands parliamentary authority “over to a 52-member government. The Supreme Court is the only thing left to defend Israeli democracy before it is finally crushed.”
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He also warned of attacks against Supreme Court justices, fueled by Netanyahu’s rhetoric, and called on the premier to “stop the violent onslaught against Supreme Court justices and the High Court of Justice. The responsibility is yours.”
Shikma Schwartzman, one of the organizers, called out Gantz for “trampling over Israel’s Basic Laws” in accepting Netanyahu’s unity deal. “Gantz, for once, promise – and fulfill your promise,” she said. “Ensure there is one law for all.”
A protest organized by the same group of activists on Sunday had a turn-out of thousands and has received worldwide coverage. “We are determined to protect democracy. We the citizens have to lead,” organizers said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.