Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that the ongoing protests against him "are being organized at luxury hotels towers" and doubled down on his claims that they are being led by "anarchists."
Netanyahu spoke at a special question-and-answers session at the Knesset, after 40 lawmakers gathered a requisite 40 signatures requiring him to be present.
The protests, which have been occuring regularly for nearly two months and attract thousands of anti-Netanyahu demonstrators, "are funded by left-wing foundations and receive disproportionate support from the media," Netanyahu claimed.
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid rebutted Netanyahu's claims, saying "We paid for the chair you're sitting on right now. It isn't yours – it belongs to the citizens of Israel. You know why the protesters are coming to you at [the prime minister's residence at] Balfour? Because it's not your house, it's theirs. They came to tell you that the contract is up."
"We work for the citizens of Israel," Lapid added. "They aren't firing you because they're leftists, anarchists, spreaders of the pandemic or any of the other names that you called them – they'll fire your because you're not doing your job."
Coalition whip Miki Zohar, who spoke before Netanyahu, warned that "the right to protest cannot be allowed to become the right to contract the coronavirus." He called the left-wing "dangerous" and attacked the Likud's senior coalition partner – Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan party – for "urgently" defending the right to protest.
In a particularly emotional speech, Yamina Head Naftali Bennett chided the government on their handling of the coronavirus crisis, repeatedly asking, "What have you done? Nothing!" Bennett charged, "You are ruining the lives of millions of citizens of Israel, you are killing them, you are killing them from within." Bennett said, "People are dying! Have you gone crazy? Pick yourselves up, understand that we have a nation that is dying."
- Netanyahu chose his target for next election campaign: Protesters and the media
- Netanyahu says protests are attempt to trample democracy, calls them 'coronavirus incubators'
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Yisrael Beiteinu head Avigdor Lieberman said in his speech that in recent weeks the atmosphere in Israel "is that of intimidation and silencing of public discourse." Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz called on Netanyahu to vacate his seat as he faces a criminal trial, adding that "the coronavirus exposed the results of your economic policies."
Ayman Odeh, leader of the Arab Joint List, turned to Netanyahu and said: "You accused us of being terror supporters, of being terrorists. The terrorist is the one who sabotages the possibility of peace. Meaning, you."