Thousands of protesters gathered outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem on Tuesday, before marching to the Knesset, supervised by a major police presence.
Israel Police said they arrested 34 protesters in all for suspected disorderly conduct and for allegedely assaulting officers during the protest. By Wednesday afternoon, all had been released.
At about 12:30 A.M., police began dispersing the protesters using water cannons and mounted officers.
Tuesday's demonstration is composed of two protest groups, one calling for Netanyahu's resignation over the charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust and another led by restaurateurs who are distributing food and marching against the government's handling of the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Around 20 to 30 counter-protesters, Netanyahu loyalists carrying Likud party flags, were also present near the residence, known in Israel simply by the street name, Balfour.
The main protest organizers requested permission to march from there to the Knesset building. They set off around 8:00 P.M., and eventually thronged the square in front of the Israeli parliament, many of them not wearing masks. They waved black and Israeli flags, while shouting "bribery, fraud, breach of trust" and "capital, government, underworld."
"Friends and comrades... you are the heroes, you are the light that illuminates the darkness we are in," Cassif told protesters. "Not everyone has the same political positions, but we are united in one thing: We must all fight together for a democratic Israel."
Unlike previous demonstrations, there were no physical confrontations with security forces, and around 9:30 P.M., police, led by the Jerusalem district commander, evacuated the piazza.
- Anti-Netanyahu protesters are excited by the energy, but the next step isn’t clear
- Young Israelis are finally taking to the streets. Here’s what’s driving them
- Netanyahu deploys Trump’s antifa tactics in an effort to undermine escalating protests
Protesters eventually marched back towards the Prime Minister's residence, where the began blocking the roads around Paris Square.
Demonstrations have become a regular occurrence on Balfour Street. They have also become increasingly tense, with police clashing with protesters.
They have grown in size in recent days, as increasing distress caused by the coronavirus-induced economic crisis compelled other groups and individuals to join.
On Tuesday, restaurateurs angered by the government’s demand that they shut their establishments to curb a second wave were present. They are also asking to revoke what they say are impossible conditions the government set for allowing restaurants to operate.
Dozens of restaurant owners and workers also demonstrated in the northern port city of Haifa, blocking a major artery during a protest organized by Hadash. "They cannot keep closing restaurants without offering compensation," Fadi Najjar, owner of Douzan restaurant in the city's German Colony neighborhood, told Haaretz. "I will not let them destroy my life's work."
Earlier, 61 residents of Jerusalem's Rehavia neighborhood, where the prime minister's residence is located, petitioned the High Court to prevent the demonstrations. "Children, the elderly, young people and adults alike... find themselves taken hostage by a protest that has become violent... with complete disregard for the coronavirus raging around the world," the petitioners wrote. The state must respond to the petition by August 5.
A week prior, some 2,000 protesters demonstrated outside the official residence. Fifteen were arrested after protesters began blocking the streets surrounding the area.
That same evening, thousands of self-employed people protesting the government’s handling of the economic crisis demonstrated in Tel Aviv’s Charles Clore Park before marching through the city to Habima Square; thirteen protesters were arrested after clashing with police.