Around 2,000 people demonstrated Saturday night, June 12, outside the official residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on the eve of a crucial vote of confidence for the Bennet-Lapid coalition that could end the reign of Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. One activist, Yuval Sade, tweeted and shared a video of the event and wrote, “Never before have there been so many smiles at the Balfour protest.”
However, far-right prime minister-designate Naftali Bennett (who never participated in the year-long Balfour protests) said Saturday, “This is not the time for demonstrations and provocations,” adding a plea to “treat Netanyahu and his family with respect.”
Saturday’s rally was expected to be the final weekend demonstration against the premier before a new coalition ousting him is sworn in. Several streets in central Jerusalem were closed ahead of the evening’s protests, including Agron Street and Keren Hayesod.
To the tune of the Italian anti-Nazi partisan song Bella Ciao, protesters belted out “Bibi Ciao” in celebration of nearly a year of rallies outside his home demanding his departure from office. Protesters blew vuvuzelas or beat drums, while some wore T-shirt that read in Hebrew: “Bibi Lekh” (“Bibi go”). Numerous smaller protests took place on highway overpasses and at major intersections around the country. Near Nahariya in the north of the country, a man in a passing car brandished a gun at demonstrators. The protesters, who managed to film the incident, filed a complaint with the police.
At its height in mid-summer 2020, the anti-Netanyahu protest movement saw tens of thousands, among them Hadash and Communist Party of Israel members, take to the streets in Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem and dozens of cities, with thousands more along highways across the country. Demonstrators have been holding regular protests against Netanyahu, demanding he resign over his trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Protesters also criticized his government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
One of the largest demonstrations was held on March 20, 2021 in what was the final mass protest ahead of the latest Knesset elections. Tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered in Jerusalem on that Saturday evening, among them Hadash MKs Ayman Odeh (head of the Joint List ) and Ofer Cassif.