Tens of thousands of demonstrators will take to the streets across Israel today and tomorrow (Saturday evening), in protests largely demanding the resignation of far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his three indictments on graft charges, as well as castigating his neoliberal government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
This weekend’s demonstrations will take place in Tel Aviv, in Jerusalem’s Paris Square near the PM’s official residence as well as outside Netanyahu’s private home in Caesarea and at some 300 major intersections, highway overpasses and other locations around the country, in what will likely be the largest manifestation of the growing protest movement seeking Netanyahu’s ouster and the redressing of a laundry list of other ills wracking the country.
Last Saturday night, August 1, an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people packed Jerusalem’s Paris Square calling on Netanyahu to resign in the largest-yet rally of the burgeoning anti-government movement that has brought activists, many of them young and newly politically active, to the streets.
On Tuesday, August 4, Netanyahu visited a fast food steak shop in Ramla for an informal photo-op and fact-finding mission to assess how small businesses are enduring the coronavirus pandemic. However, while Netanyahu ordered a falafel and asked the various stall owners if they had received the government assistance that was due to them, a supporter shouted out “Bibi, death to all leftists! Leftists are bastards, Bibi, death to the left!” A video of the visit was uploaded to Netanyahu’s Facebook page, with the wording: “Leave the diet, go out and eat and support local businesses.” As he exited the market and walked away, supporters cried out “Bibi we love you.”
The incident came as Netanyahu responded on the same day to comments made by his son, Yair, a day earlier branding anti-government protesters “space aliens” and saying the premier was “amused” by the mass demonstrations against him. While the younger Netanyahu subsequently backtracked and said he only meant that the protesters in costume were “space aliens,” during the prime minister’s visit at a military base in Ramla, he said that there are “bizarre phenomena” at the demonstrations, and he assumed these were what his son was referring to. The Black Flag movement reacted by saying “Bizarre is a prime minister who gives himself a tax break of a million shekels while there are millions of unemployed sitting at home.” “Bizarre is when a criminal defendant is prime minister while being occupied day and night with his own trial,” the group added in a statement.
Coalition whip and Likud lawmaker Miki Zohar on Tuesday morning accused the protesters against Netanyahu of being paid off – but admitted his claims were based only on rumors. In an interview with Kan public radio, he said: “10,000 protesters against Netanyahu. I heard some of them are being paid by groups that are hostile to the right-wing government.” When asked by the host, journalist Aryeh Golan, who was paying the protesters, Zohar responded, “There are all sorts of rumors.”