Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in Jerusalem and across Israel on Saturday evening, September 12, as they have every week for three months, calling on far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign because of his indictment and trial on corruption charges as well as the looming new coronavirus lockdown that his government is about to decide upon. Thousands of protesters participated in a procession starting out from Jerusalem’s Chord Bridge at the western entrance to the city which made its way to Paris Square on Balfour Street, the site of the prime minister’s official residence.
The protest ended after midnight when police forcibly cleared out the remaining protesters who refused to leave Paris Square and nine people were arrested. Protesters, among them Joint List MK Ofer Casssif, Hadash and Communist Party of Israel activists, could be seen waving red flags and chanting, “You take from the poor and give to the rich, what a corrupt government!” While the focus of the demonstration remained opposition to Netanyahu his alleged corruption, many of the protesters chanted against the planned second lockdown due to begin on Friday of this week.
Netanyahu is expected to visit Washington today, Monday September 14, where he is due to sign the agreement establishing formal diplomatic ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, while the coronavirus pandemic is causing record number of infections throughout Israel. Protest organizers on Balfour Street called for demonstrations at Ben Gurion airport to “detain” Netanyahu’s flight Sunday.
The premier’s original plans were to fly to the US by private jet together with his family to socially distance them from the press and the rest of his entourage. However, announcement of these plans sufficiently sparked anger of workers’ unions before the weekend to make him shelve the idea on Friday.
Earlier Saturday, protests staged at more than 300 major intersections and overpasses across the country, as they have in previous weeks. In the seaside town of Caesarea, some 800 people joined the weekly anti-Netanyahu protest outside the PM’s private home.
On Friday, thousands of Israelis marched in central Jerusalem “in defense of democracy” and then rallied outside Netanyahu’s residence to call for the premier’s resignation because of his indictment on corruption charges and his government’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic. While the Friday “Kabbalat Shabbat” (Greeting the Sabbath) protests in Paris Square have become a weekly event drawing several thousand people, including young families and children, this week was the first time that thousands of protesters marched in central West Jerusalem. According to event organizers, who handed out bracelets to keep count of attendance, over 6,000 people attended Friday’s protest.