Far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted on Thursday night, September 17, that an unpopular new nationwide lockdown set to begin the next day was “important and “necessary” to stem the rising coronavirus infection rate, which passed 5,000 daily infections this week. The surge in confirmed infections has made Israel one of the two leading countries in the world for increased daily infections in relation to is population.
The government decided on Sunday, September 13, to impose a three-week nationwide lockdown to curb a surge in coronavirus cases, a measure that took effect yesterday, Friday, at 2 pm, the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. The lockdown is bitterly opposed by many economic sectors, and has been castigated by Hadash and the Communist Party of Israel as proof of the neoliberal government’s failure in managing the crisis.
“Netanyahu, who only looks out for himself, is personally responsible for the chaos and the failure. He’s playing irresponsibly with the physical and mental health of Israeli citizens and maneuvering politically to survive and to stop massive protests,” tweeted Hadash MK Ofer Cassif (Joint List).
On Thursday night, the eve of the lockdown, the Black Flag protest movement held hundreds of vigils throughout the country. The group, one of the leading organizations in the ongoing protests against Netanyahu, blamed the new lockdown on the prime minister, saying the need to once again close the country down was “all the result of Netanyahu’s failures.” Despite this, the movement announced on Monday, September 14, that it will not be organizing the larger Jerusalem demonstrations outside the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem during the upcoming lockdown, in deference to “social solidarity” and “social responsibility,” but will continue with demonstrations on highway overpasses, a staple of the protest movement. However, other leading anti-corruption groups and Hadash vowed to press on with protests at Netanyahu’s Jerusalem residence and another demonstration will be held next Sunday night, September 20, with the conclusion of the two-day Rosh HaShana holiday.
Protesters, sometimes numbering tens of thousands, have been gathering outside the official residence of the prime minister in Jerusalem’s Paris Square every week for three months, and while criticism of the government’s handling of coronavirus crisis and its economic fallout have always been present, they have mostly been overshadowed by denunciations of alleged corruption and dirty politics and calling for Netanyahu’s resignation due to his indictment on corruption charges. “No lockdown can stop the protests…Every citizen should understand that they have the right to protest and they should not be afraid of anything,” said Sadi Ben-Shitrit, one of the leaders of the protest group “Crime Minister.” “This is an illegitimate government…They are killing our country. We do not interest them…We need to kick them out.”