Thousands of citizens of Israel protested against far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Saturday, January 9, for the 29th consecutive week in plazas, at intersections and along overpasses across Israel. Two of the larger demonstrations took place, as they do weekly, outside the Prime Minister’s Official Residence in Jerusalem and near his private residence in Caesarea. Among the speakers at the Jerusalem protest was Hadash MK Ofer Cassif (Joint List).
In Holon, south of Tel Aviv, demonstrators protesting at the Meditech Plaza, among them members of the Communist Party of Israel and former Hadash MK Tamar Gozansky, were pepper-sprayed by a number of Netanyahu supporters. Several dozen protestors were reportedly affected by the chemical agent. Police arrested one suspect, a 23-year-old resident of the city. In the central city of Kfar Yona, the police also arrested a young man on suspicion of attacking a demonstrator. According to an eyewitness, there were two attackers, one was detained by police while the second is still being sought after.
“In recent months a cruel campaign of incitement is being waged against protesters. As a result, hundreds of cases of assault against protesters have been recorded nationwide. The only way of stopping it and returning Israel to the right track is by limiting the duration of terms [of political office] and through a persistent war against the persistent culture of lying and corruption of Netanyahu’s government,” a statement issued by the Black Flag movement read.
Saturday’s protests followed a report that was aired on Friday, January 8, on Israel’s three major news programs, alleging that the previous week’s demonstrations “posed a threat to the prime minister.” The protests also came on the heels of Friday’s announcement by the Jerusalem District Court that the next hearing in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial, set for Wednesday, has been postponed indefinitely, citing coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
Channel 13 News reported Saturday, that the Shin Bet security service hacked the phones of several anti-Netanyahu protesters on suspicion they sought to break into the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem. The Black Flag and Crime Minister protest movements slammed the internal security agency over the report. “It seems the complete chaos at the Prime Minister’s Residence and the fear of democratic protests that could topple the corrupt have also penetrated the Shin Bet,” the Crime Minister statement said, referring to Netanyahu’s trial on graft charges.
Last week, the police searched the home of a 78-year-old anti-Netanyahu protestor and called him in for questioning because he allegedly manufactures plastic devices used by protesters weekly in Jerusalem. Oded Alish, a mechanical engineer from the town of Kiryat Tivon, southeast of Haifa, developed a cylindrical device by means of which demonstrators can lock themselves together by holding hands, making it harder for police to separate them during protests. In addition, 70-year-old Rami Matan was also arrested by police, who with a warrant carried out a search on his home in the community of Nataf. Matan was detained for questioning in a Jerusalem police station.