Mass Anti-Netanyahu Rallies Set as Government Ends Curb on Protests

Israel’s cabinet informed the High Court of Justice on Monday, October 12, that it does not intend to extend the “special state of emergency” that allows it to limit protests and which is about to expire. Earlier, the Health Ministry told the Justice Ministry they would also not recommend renewing the order restricting demonstrations, even if there is no immediate easing of the lockdown. The announcement was made in coordination with the Prime Minister’s office, the Arabic-language Communist daily newspaper Al-Ittihad reported.

Before the lockdown, demonstrations drew several tens of thousands of protesters. Since the curbs on protests were introduced, limiting numbers and barring participants from traveling more than a kilometer from home to take part, organizers have arranged hundreds of small rallies nationwide, with last Saturday’s protests claimed by organizers to draw a record nationwide total of some 200,000 participants.

Numerous movements and groups, among them Hadash and the Communist Party of Israel, who have for months been organizing protests against far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling for him to resign amid his corruption trial and castigating the government’s handling of the pandemic, are planning a major rally outside his Balfour Street residence in Jerusalem this coming Saturday night, October 17. A much larger rally is planned for the following Saturday, October 24,

The Black Flag movement, which is among the organizers of the anti-Netanyahu protests in recent months, said that they will “return to protest in front of the home of the defendant at Balfour this coming Saturday, as well as at some 1,200 locations nationwide. In addition we will hold protests on Thursday, October 15, all across Israel.” According to the organization, “Over the last month, all of Israel has realized that an indicted prime minister is a certain recipe for disaster.” “The Israeli people (sic) came out in hordes in recent weeks from a deep desire to save Israel, and we call on them to continue and come to Balfour to replace Netanyahu,” the organization said.

On Sunday, October 11, despite the protestations of opposition lawmakers, the constitutional committee’s chair, United Torah Judaism lawmaker Yaakov Asher, decided to postpone the vote on the government’s one-week extension of the current coronavirus restrictions. All opposition lawmakers left the debate in protest over the decision. Hadash MK Ofer Cassif of the Joint List said, “You are turning the committee into a circus and a tool in the hands of the far-right government. We are not statistics.”