Tens of Thousands Protest Across Israel for Netanyahu’s Ouster; Israelis Gather Near the US Embassy

Tens of thousands of Israelis demonstrated on Saturday night across Israel, calling for the ouster of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his part in the far-right governmental failure that led to Hamas’ massacre on October 7 and the outbreak of war in Gaza. The demonstrations were led by activists and residents of communities near the border with Gaza and Lebanon who were evacuated from their homes.

Demonstrators at Kaplan Street in Tel-Aviv, the banner survived about 15 minutes then was snatch by police, Saturday, December 23, 2023 (Photo: Rachel Beitarie)

Tens of thousands attended a rally at Habima Square in central Tel Aviv on chanting and singing songs of “We won’t stop”, and calling for “elections now.”, demanding government action to bring the hostages home.

During the event, Sigalit Hilel, whose son Uri Tchernihovsky a 29-year-old electrical engineering student who worked at Nova festival and was killed in the 7 October attack by Hamas, told the crowd: “For five whole days I searched for my son and during these difficult days and those that followed, our sense of Israel’s leadership evaporated. For five whole days no one came to my house, no one was interested or offered to help. Until this moment, no one has come. I was left to my life as my dear sons and many hundreds of people were left to die.” After the event, hundreds demonstrated at the nearby Kaplan Street, among them Hadash and Communist Party of Israel activists, among them MK Ofer Cassif, to “stop the genocide in Gaza”.

Also, hundreds of people protested in the upscale town of Caesarea, near Netanyahu’s private residence, with former Meretz MK Yair Golan said at the rally that “this awful man who has no political, security, or human considerations in his heart other than his own personal benefit, dragged and continues to drag Israel into disaster.” “From Netanyahu’s point of view, there’s only one way out of his current situation – all that he wants is an endless war without timetables”, added

Golan addressed Minister Benny Gantz and called on him to leave the emergency war government immediately. “You and your friends have nothing to do there. He will oppose any possible benefit you bring,” Golan said. “As long as Netanyahu is prime minister, the healing process cannot begin. We must act with full vigor to start a large, prolonged and decisive protest that Netanyahu will have no choice but to go to quick elections,” he added.

Roni Neumann, the uncle of Rotem Neumann, who was murdered at the Nova festival said at the Caesarea demonstration that “a large majority think that this despicable man who sends soldiers to war but is afraid to attend their funerals should go home.” Others demonstrations were held in Haifa and ten localities.

Latterly on Saturday, people protested at the nearby “Hostages Square” outside the Tel Aviv Art Museum for a weekly demonstration in support of hostages held in Gaza, urging the government to pursue a deal for their release. With talks for a second round of hostage releases appearing to flail despite reports of progress in recent days, former hostages, relatives of some of the 129 people still held in Gaza, relatives, activists and media personalities called for Israel to do what is needed to bring the captives home immediately.

Sharon Aloni-Cunio, who was released as part of the last deal along with 3-year-old twins, Emma and Yuli, spoke publicly for the first time about her experiences in Gaza at the rally. Her husband David Cunio remains hostage. Organizers from the Hostages and Missing Families Forum said families and supporters of the hostages would begin marching to the Knesset once again starting Sunday to emphasize the need to bring the hostages home.

On Friday, around 100 Israelis gathered outside of the US Embassy in Jerusalem to mourn Palestinians killed in Gaza and to call for an immediate ceasefire. The vigil included a recorded message from a Palestinian who fled Gaza, written memorials about those who have been killed, poetry, music by a Gazan who was killed, and more.

“The death toll will only continue to rise if no action is taken. From our devastation for those already killed, we demand that this war end.” Maya Rosen, a participant in the vigil. The vigil comes at a time when Israel is severely repressing and punishing any recognition of the suffering in Gaza or of the Palestinians who have been killed since October 7th. This most directly impacts Palestinians who have sought to mourn their family or friends, or who generally dared to speak out about the atrocities committed in Gaza. Many Palestinians across Israel have been arrested, threatened, and forced out of work for social media posts or statements. Israeli Jews have also faced repression in this crackdown. 

“In the current environment, there is no space to speak to the suffering, loss, and deprivation experienced in Gaza since October 7th, and the nearly 20,000 people, the majority of whom are women and children, who have lost their lives,” said Itamar Israeli, another participant in the vigil.  Those gathered came to express their pain about all victims who have perished in this war — Palestinians and Israelis — and to demand an immediate ceasefire, at the doorstep of the US Embassy and down the street from Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence. In coordination with the vigil in Jerusalem, some 25 parallel vigils are planned across the world this weekend, including in New York, Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh, Toronto, London, and Zurich.  

Related: https://maki.org.il/en/?p=31448