Towards Swearing-In of New Gov’t, Street Protests Spread Nationwide

During recent days, thousands of citizens of Israel have taken to the streets in numerous and diverse protests, all of them somehow linked to the political, social and economic upheavals so exacerbated by the coronvirus crisis.

Several protests were originally scheduled for tomorrow, Wednesday May 13, to coincide with the swearing-in of the new Netanyahu-Gantz government. However, on Wednesday, Trump’s devious consigliere, the ultra-right US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, will be arriving in Israel for a brief visit to confer with Netanyahu and Gantz on Israel’s anticipated annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank. Consequently, the swearing-in of the government has been pushed back to Thursday, May 14, in a sign of deference to the imperial overlords who have promised to recognize yet another breach of international law by Israel.

1,500 El Al workers held a mass protest against planned layoffs in the company on Sunday outside the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem.

1,500 El Al workers held a mass protest against planned layoffs in the company on Sunday outside the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem. (Photo: El Al workers union)

All protests have all been rescheduled for Thursday. Among them is one being organized by the “Black Flag” movement to decry, in the words of the organizers, the “new mafia and anti-democratic government.” In recent days dozens of “Black Flag” protesters have demonstrated outside the Tel Aviv homes of Blue & White MKs Miki Haimovich and Asaf Zamir over their decision to stick with their party, even as it intends to join the new right-wing government. “You’ve turned your back on us and sold your soul to the devil for the sake of a criminal defendant,” cried protestors outside of Haimovich’s home. Some demonstrators accused her of “stealing votes” by joining the coalition. More “Black Flag” demonstrations have been held in the last few days in Nahariya, Afula, the Upper Galilee, Pardes Hanna, Ra’anana, Yakum, Kiryat Tivom and Rosh Ha’Ayin.

Additional protests in the wake of the accelerating societal upheaval have included a mass rally on Sunday, May 10, of El-Al workers outside the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem, to protest planned layoffs by the privatized company. On Tuesday of last week, May 5, the local councils of all Arab communities in Israel held a general strike to protest the failure of the government to respond to their demands for compensation for the great losses they have suffered in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and to demand treatment equal to that of their Jewish counterparts. And a new alliance calling itself the “100% Coalition,” a social front demanding full compensation for lost wages and income due to the pandemic, has coalesced and has been holding demonstrations around the country.

Other demonstrations have taken place to protest the impossible working hours demanded from medical interns and residents: approximately 2,500 young doctors demonstrated in Tel Aviv Saturday night to demand an end to the 26-hour-long regimen of shifts they’re currently forced to work which, they claim, are dangerous, in particular since the onset of the coronavirus crisis. Following an overload of referrals made throughout the week at various hospitals, medical staff demonstrated on Saturday evening in the city’s Habima Square, with parallel demonstrations also taking place at Bat Galim in Haifa, opposite Rambam Hospital. The doctors demanded shorter shifts and improved conditions for trainee physicians.

Also on Saturday evening, there were protests against the coalition deal struck between Netanyahu and Gantz. Hundreds attended a rally organized by the Movement for the Quality of Government in Tel Aviv’s iconic Rabin Square after the High Court of Justice ruled this week that there are no grounds to disqualify Netanyahu from forming a government despite the three counts of corruption for which he has been formally indicted. The court also refused to strike down legislative changes being made as part of the Netanyahu-Gantz power-sharing agreement, while admitting that there were “significant difficulties” inherent to the agreement.

Outside the Tel Aviv home of Welfare Minister Ofir Akunis, parents of children in government-supervised daycare centers protested the lack of childcare during the pandemic. Childcare centers opened partially on Sunday, May 10, but reduced class sizes due to the coronavirus pandemic meant that not all children will be able to attend, leaving many parents unable to work.

In addition, a group of workers and small business owners, including restaurateurs, protested at Tel Aviv’s Charles Clore park, said that they have not seen any economic benefit in the recent loosening of regulations and still have not received help from the government.

Arab-Druze and Circassian activists got together Sunday for a joint protest in Tel Aviv outside the Government Complex Building (Kiryat Hamemshalah), calling on the government to approve a five-year budget to so that local authorities in both communities could deal with the coronavirus outbreak. Hundreds of protesters wearing masks and maintaining social distance blocked main arteries as they called for the transfer of NIS 200 million in emergency funds their communities were promised. That money has still not been delivered despite the budget’s having been approved by the government. The Arab-Druze community in Israel is currently the only sector of the population operating without a clear budgetary plan.