Hundreds of thousands of Israelis gathered across Israel on Saturday evening to renew the mass protests against the far-right government, in what is the eighth consecutive week of protests. Despite the mass protests, the far-right coalition advanced the anti-democratic reform package at full speed Sunday, with the next plenum votes on pieces of legislation set for Wednesday.
Protesters against the far-right government gather in Tel Aviv, Saturday evening, February 25, 2023 (Photo: Kaplan Protest)
Wednesday is also planned to be the next day of nationwide protests, with organizers saying it will be “a day of struggle” around the country and are expected to lead demonstrations throughout the country, whether by blocking roads or other means.
Organizers claimed that some 300,000 took part in rallies around the country on Saturday, making the latest demonstrations the largest ones yet, with estimates pointing to 130,000-160,000 in Tel Aviv As the main rally in Tel Aviv ended, hundreds of protesters marched down to the Ayalon Highway, clashing with cops who tried — unsuccessfully — to prevent them from blocking the major thoroughfare. Some demonstrators set tires and wooden planks alight on the road, which was blocked for several hours.
A man was arrested after allegedly speeding towards protesters on Ayalon Highway. “We were about a hundred demonstrators in Ayalon highways when suddenly a car driving very, very, very fast came towards us. He apparently broke through a barrier [set by police] and the cops told him to stop,” one protester said, adding that “the protesters really jumped to the sides and it was a miracle that no one was hurt”.
During the demonstration 21 protesters had been arrested. Cops also opened an investigation into one protester seen writing a huge graffiti on the highway calling Netanyahu a “traitor.”
In response to those events, racist National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said the events “show that this is a protest of anarchists,” accused the demonstrators of an “illegal rampage” and said he expected police to show “zero tolerance.” PM Benjamin Netanyahu added the protesters were trying “to create anarchy” and force another election.
Beyond the main rally in central Tel Aviv, a particularly large demonstration was held in Haifa, where media estimated some 30,000 participated. Other protests in Jerusalem, Herzliya, Beersheba and other cities drew many more thousands.