Thousands of protesters gathered outside the official residence of Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday, August 1, and thronged the streets of central Jerusalem, as weeks of protests against the leader appeared to be gaining momentum.
The protests in central Jerusalem, smaller gatherings in Tel Aviv, near Netanyahu's beach house in central Israel, and at dozens of busy intersections across the country marked one of the largest turnouts in weeks of protests against the leader. This is also the largest protest the country has seen since the 2011 protests over the country's high cost of living.
According to The Jerusalem Post, Israel Police foreign press spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said there were "more than 10,000" demonstrators near Netanyahu's official residence on the capital's Balfour Street. Meanwhile, other reports said 13,000 demonstrators were present.
Throughout summer, thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets calling for PM Netanyahu's resignation, stating that he should not remain in office while on trial for corruption charges. The PM has been charged with fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in a series of scandals. The protesters objected to Netanyahu remaining in office while legal proceedings against him are underway.
The accusations include accepting nearly $200,000 in gifts from two billionaires and offering to push legislation benefiting powerful Israeli media moguls in exchange of positive coverage in their publications, reported The Times Of Israel.
The demonstrators have also been protesting against the PM's handling of the country's coronavirus crisis and the resulting economic damage. He has come under severe criticism for a premature easing of restrictions in the country. Meanwhile, due to the economic fallout of the pandemic, the unemployment in the country stands at over 20 per cent.
During the protests, the demonstrators hoisted Israeli flags, blew loud horns and held posters that said "Crime Minister."
Tonight's anti-Netanyahu protest in Jerusalem is remarkable.— Joshua Potash (@JoshuaPotash) August 1, 2020
Meanwhile, Netanyahu called the demonstrators "leftists" and "anarchists", in an attempt to play down the rallies. On Saturday, the PM's Likud Party also issued a statement accusing the country's two private TV stations of giving "free and endless publicity" to the protesters.
In recent days, Israeli police have arrested nearly 20 far-right activists. While the protests have largely been peaceful, they have grown violent recently, with some protesters clashing with the police. While some of the protesters accused the police of using excessive force, small gangs of Netanyahu supporters affiliated with a far-right group have also assaulted the demonstrators.
"Hundreds of police officers are mobilized in the area to implement health, safety and security measures and prevent any incident from taking place," Rosenfeld was quoted by the media.