Thousands of demonstrators gathered outside of the official residence of Israel’s prime minister’s on Balfour Street in Jerusalem on Bastille Day, Tuesday, July 14, to protest the continued premiership of Benjamin Netanyahu. What began as a small and peaceful protest turned into a mass demonstration, as more and more people spontaneously joined the gathering which continued well into the evening. Several protesters reportedly carried torches and red flags; others clashed with police officers and tried to break through police barricades.
After hours of protests, the police managed to reopen the streets of central West Jerusalem. During the demonstration, 50 young people were arrested for alleged “property damage, disruption of public order and attacking police and media personnel,” according to a spokesperson for the police.
The Bastille Day demonstration in Jerusalem was part of the ongoing “Black Flag” anti-corruption protests against Netanyahu, who is standing trial in a series of graft cases. Many held signs, saying, “You are detached. We are fed up” and “Bibi go home.” Red Hadash placards read “When the government is against the people, the people are against the government.” Others contended there is “no way” a politician under indictment can be prime minister, “Netanyahu’s corruption makes us sick” and “Netanyahu, resign now.”
“A prime minister with a pending indictment does have the time to handle the worst economic crisis of our generation. Hundreds of thousands of Israel’s workers and self-employed are collapsing under the incompetence of the government headed by Netanyahu, a government busy 24/7 with Netanyahu’s trial. If he has a sense of responsibility left within him for this country’s citizens – he must resign and hand over the reins to someone who has the time for state-related issues,” read a statement issued by the “Black Flag” movement. In recent weeks several demonstrations have been held regularly around the country, with protesters bearing placards reading “Crime Minister” and calling for Netanyahu to resign.
While Tuesday’s protest in Jerusalem was going on, hundreds of demonstrators were gathering near in the Charles Clore Park in Tel Aviv to mark nine years since the country’s 2011 social protests, which broke out in the wake of the Arab Spring. Tuesday’s protest in Tel Aviv followed a massive demonstration last Saturday evening in the city against the government’s mishandling of the economic impact of the coronavirus, in which many thousands participated in a rally that eventually turned violent when demonstrators and police clashed. People of various backgrounds and economic sectors took part in the Saturday night demonstration, including workers, unemployed, owners of hard-hit small businesses, freelancers and self-employed people, members of the entertainment industry and the restaurant and hospitality sectors, and university students. Israel’s Scout Movement also demonstrated in Tel Aviv and at numerous major intersections across the country, protesting the government’s decision to cut by one third the state’s funding for youth movements. Furthermore the nationwide strike of Israel’s social workers entered its second week on Monday, July 13.
Following Saturday evening’s mass demonstration in Tel Aviv, Likud backbencher MK Osnat Mark derided those who took part in the protest against the neo-liberal government’s coronavirus economic plans as “radical leftists,” implying that widespread opposition toward the prime minister among the protesters is illegitimate. “I didn’t see the self-employed there,” said Mark during a session of the Knesset’s Economic Affairs Committee on Monday, “only leftists and members of the radical left who came to say one thing: ‘Down with Bibi.’”