Far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Joint List leader, MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash) publicly exchanged personalized political acrimony on Sunday, August 2, over the latter’s participation in a mass anti-Netanyahu protest in Jerusalem, Saturday night, alongside Hadash MK Ofer Cassif (Joint List).
Netanyahu, increasingly irritated by the demonstrations outside his residence, used the Hadash MK as a cudgel to hit back against them. “This is Ayman Odeh, the head of the Joint List that supports terrorists and who attended a Hamas conference last month, at the left-wing protest in Jerusalem yesterday,” tweeted Netanyahu, referring to Odeh’s attendance at a reconciliation meeting between Fatah and Hamas held in Ramallah on July 2, to join ranks in fighting Israel’s annexation plan. Odeh responded, “There are a million unemployed Israelis and a total failure in preventing the spread of the virus. As usual, the only thing Netanyahu has to offer is hatred for Arabs. It doesn’t work anymore. The public doesn’t buy it.”
Some 15,000 demonstrators gathered outside the official residence of Netanyahu on Saturday night, August 1, and thronged the streets of central Jerusalem, as weeks of protests against far-right government gained steam. Odeh attended the protest and said on Twitter, “I took a one-hour time-out from the [Eid al-Adha Moslem] festivities to protest [outside the Prime Minister’s Residence] on Balfour Street. Getting rid of Netanyahu and the corruption and racism he represents is the first step toward the fundamental reform we need here.”
In addition, Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz clashed at Sunday’s cabinet meeting, with the premier accusing protesters against him of “trampling on democracy,” while the Blue and White chief responded that people had a right to demonstrate and must be protected. “I see an attempt to trample on democracy. There is a distortion of all the rules. Nobody restricts the demonstrations. On the contrary — they are accommodating toward them,” Netanyahu said. However, he added, “it’s a coronavirus incubator, there are rules that are not enforced, no one restricts it and no one has even tried to restrict it.”
“These demonstrations are fueled by a media mobilization, the likes of which I don’t remember before,” the premier declared. “They are encouraged, allowed to paralyze neighborhoods and block roads, in stark contrast to everything that was accepted in the past.” The prime minister continued his protest of media coverage of the events, saying, “I condemn the one-sidedness of most media outlets. They do not report the demonstrations — they participate in them. They add fuel.” On Saturday night, he again lashed out at TV news stations, as his Likud party accused the major networks channels 12 and 13 of “delivering propaganda for the extreme left wing demonstrations.” “They are desperately trying to brainwash the public, in order to bring down a strong prime minister from the right,” Likud wrote in a post retweeted by Netanyahu.
On Sunday, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ordered Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister’s son, to take down a tweet identifying and doxing the leaders of the protest “Crime Minister” movement against his father. The younger Netanyahu had publicized the activists’ addresses and encouraged his 88,000-plus social media followers to picket their homes.
“I invite everyone to come to protest, day and night (the Supreme Court says it’s allowed), at the homes of these people who have been organizing the anarchy in the country for all of us in recent weeks,” he tweeted on Thursday. The Court also told Yair Netanyahu to stop harassing the activists for six months, “in any form.” Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Judge Dorit Feinstein wrote in her decision that Netanyahu’s tweet could “definitely” lead to harassment of the protest leaders and violation of their privacy. Netanyahu “was indifferent to that possibility when he saw some of his followers calling for violent acts didn’t condemn that and didn’t remove the tweet when he saw it was drawing worrying comments,” the judge said. She said it was “doubtful” whether a parallel could be drawn between a demonstration outside a public figure’s official residence in protest of their opinions and policies, and a protest outside a non-public figure’s private home. Yair Netanyahu’s comments came amid concerns of growing political violence, after several attacks on protesters by racist and far-right activists.