Thousands of Israelis have joined a protest in occupied Jerusalem al-Quds, calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to step down as he is on trial over corruption charges and amid anger over his cabinet’s mishandling of economy and a coronavirus outbreak.
The protesters gathered in front of Netanyahu’s official residence on Balfour Street on Tuesday evening, waving black flags, which they say symbolize the “death of democracy” during the tenure of the chairman of the Likud political party as the regime’s leader.
Many held posters that said “You are detached. We are fed up,” or there is “no way” a politician under indictment can be prime minister.
The demonstrators also blew horns, chanted slogans, and threw water bottles at the police.
Other placards read “Netanyahu’s corruption makes us sick” and “Netanyahu, resign.”
The anti-corruption activists at some point tried to storm the residence but were dragged away by police officers, resulting in scuffles.
As the protest ended, hundreds moved downtown, where they blocked the light rail system, chanting “shame, shame” and “Bibi, go home.”
Police then used water cannons against the demonstrators and officers mounted on horses attempted to disperse the crowd, sending protesters scattering to the side of the streets before they regrouped.
An unnamed Israeli police’s spokesperson said one officer had been lightly wounded and 50 protesters arrested in the scuffles.
Demonstrator Elhanan Marks said that “every morning, I read the paper and it feels like a slap in the face. It’s time for a change, but still no one’s listening.”
Another protester, who declined to be named, said the incumbent Israeli administration’s poor response to the numerous crises in the occupied territories prompted her to attend the demonstration.
“The most deadly virus is not COVID-19, but corruption,” protester Laurent Cige, who came from Tel Aviv to take part, told AFP news agency.
At the same time as the demonstration in Jerusalem al-Quds, hundreds of demonstrators also gathered near Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv to mark nine nears since the start of social justice protests in the summer of 2011.
The protest followed a mass demonstration on the weekend against Netanyahu’s failure to address economic woes brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are in the beginning of a huge crisis, and it is clear that there is no leadership to expect solutions from,” said Daphni Leef, organizer of the demonstration at Charles Clore Park in Tel Aviv.
“The trust has been destroyed, despair is on the rise, but the people are waking up. It is also time to remember and inspire hope that only together will we create the strength to create solutions and change,” she added.
Netanyahu — who has served as Israeli premier for more than a decade — has recently seen his popularity ratings plummet drastically as he is under fire from several directions.
The prime minister faces charges of fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases as well as bribery in one of them.
He is also criticized for deepening economic woes in the occupied territories, where the unemployment rate has surged over 20%.
Many Israelis also blame Netanyahu for a recent rise in cases of infection with the new coronavirus.