Netanyahu's Backers Promised Thousands at Protest, but Settled for an Empty Square

Organizers asked for a permit for 3,000 participants, but short of 300 turned up

Nir Hasson
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Pro-Netanyahu demonstrators in Paris square in Jerusalem, on Thursday, August 20, 2020.
Pro-Netanyahu demonstrators in Paris square in Jerusalem, on Thursday, August 20, 2020.Credit: Emil Salman
Nir Hasson

At 9:05 P.M., Paris Square in Jerusalem was already open to traffic – and this was the clearest evidence of the weakness of the demonstration in support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held on Thursday evening in the capital.

The decision to close off the square and forcibly remove the protest camp against Netanyahu, a few hours earlier, was made to look ridiculous. The organizers of the pro-Netanyahu demonstration, who asked for a permit for 3,000 participants and promised a “huge demonstration,” attracted no more than 200-300 people. Piles of flags and colorful signs, printed on high quality paper, were heaped at the sides. “Prime minister in spite of the anger and fury of the leftists,” they announced.

MK May Golan of Likud, the only Knesset member who came to the demonstration, found it a bit difficult to hide her disappointment. “Most [Israelis] support him, we don’t need a demonstration to know it. Even if there is a demonstration of 20 or 20,000 to express love – I’ll be here,” she said. Golan had promised at the beginning of the evening that Netanyahu would appear live at the event, but it didn’t happen.

Pro-Netanyahu demonstrators in Jerusalem's Paris Square, August 20, 2020.
Pro-Netanyahu demonstrators in Jerusalem's Paris Square, August 20, 2020.Credit: Emil Salman

When the emcee asked the audience to since the song “Eretz Yisrael Yafa” (The beautiful land of Israel), he said: “I want you to appreciate what a beautiful land Benjamin Netanyahu has made for us.” He also called Netanyahu “the best prime minister that Israel ever had.”

One of the speakers asked from the stage: “I took the prime minister’s name and tried to interpret it. ‘Netan’ [given] is clear, ‘Yah’ is God, but what about the ‘U’? Then I understood that it is six – six governments. This is the fifth government, and in his name are already written that he will be prime minister after the election.”

A large part of the evening was devoted to long clips of speeches and interviews with Likud leaders expressing their love and support for Netanyahu. Among the loyalists were the minister who is the liaison between the cabinet and the Knesset David Amsalem, Public Security Minister Amir Ohana and the coalition whip MK Miki Zohar.

Pro-Netanyahu demonstrators in Paris square in Jerusalem, on Thursday, August 20, 2020.
Pro-Netanyahu demonstrators in Paris square in Jerusalem, on Thursday, August 20, 2020.Credit: Emil Salman

In one of the clips, Amsalem accused anti-Netanyahu demonstrations of not being “spontaneous,” a rather accurate description of the demonstration where it was being shown instead.

Police caused an angry outburst from the audience when they turned off the amplified sound with terrible timing: In the middle of the Shema Yisrael prayer being said on the stage.

The officers acted according to the instructions of the High Court of Justice handed down this week, which state that the “air horns, drums, percussion instruments and other noise makers that are not loudspeakers and sound systems” must be turned off as of 9:30 P.M., and loudspeakers and sound systems must be turned off as of 11 P.M.

The anger died down when the organizers explained to the crowd that this meant Netanyahu could sleep in peace during the next left-wing protest – because their loudspeakers would be silenced too.

A pro-Netanyahu demonstrator in Paris square in Jerusalem, on Thursday, August 20, 2020.
A pro-Netanyahu demonstrator in Paris square in Jerusalem, on Thursday, August 20, 2020.Credit: Emil Salman

A random sample revealed that Haaretz is not one of the more popular media outlets among the demonstrators. “A newspaper that represents the seed of Amalek, the haters of Israel, so what is there to talk about? Haaretz is the abyss,” said one of them. “If I saw someone like you dying in the desert and I had a lot of water – I’d step over you,” said a woman, who continued shouting: “Goebbels, Goebbels.”

Shai Dagu from Jerusalem agreed to speak with Haaretz in spite of his reservations. “I came out to support because after three elections, three television channels and three government institutions, the prosecution, police and courts, all joined together to get rid of him,” he said. “And if he goes then who will be in his place? The people elected him, he did not elect himself.”

Lacking music, the organizers made do with more and more speeches until the demonstration faded out.

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