Thousands of left-wing Israelis turned out in Tel Aviv on Saturday night for a rally condemning the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for what they called its poor response to the current security situation. They demanded Netanyahu resign, and said security could not be restored without negotiations with the Palestinians on a permanent accord.
The rally, organized by the left-wing Peace Now organization, was held under the headline “No security without a diplomatic solution.” The group said some 6,000 people were in attendance. Other estimates put the figure at 3,000.
Marching from Rabin Square to the IDF’s Kirya headquarters, the protesters waved banners reading: “Bibi, go home” and “Stop the madness.”
The protesters also chanted slogans such as “Jews and Arabs don’t want to hate each other” and “Israel, Palestine, two states for two peoples.”
The protesters were heckled by right-wing demonstrators as they marched, Channel 10 reported, although the confrontation did not lead to physical clashes, as happened during some protests at the time of last summer’s Gaza war.
Large numbers of security forces were on hand to escort the marchers, Channel 10 said.
The marchers were joined by leftist members of the Knesset, including Meretz leader Zaehava Galon and Zionist Union MK Stav Shaffir.
“Bibi you failed. You failed to provide personal safety for the citizens of Israel, you failed to present a vision that would somehow change this reality,” Galon said, referring to the prime minister by his nickname. “The only thing that the Netanyahu government managed to do is make us arm ourselves, put a bullet in the head of anyone who looks like a terrorist. This government calls for a boycott of Arab Israeli citizens… and incites against members of the left-wing.”
Shaffir was equally scathing of the prime minister and his government.
“They are leading us into a binational state, to the destruction of the Zionist vision,” she said. “On whose watch has Jerusalem gone up in flames? On whose watch are people scared to leave their homes? On whose watch are lynchings of the innocent carried out? On Netanyahu’s watch.”
Marcher Daniel Dojon said he came “because the situation is crazy. I am not talking about safety but the lack of (political) progress, the lack of hope. Israeli politicians are becoming more and more extreme.”
Another protester, who identified himself only as Ze’ev, aged 67, blamed the lack of a peace process for the current violence. “It will further deteriorate if we think that being passive is the answer,” he said.
Dov Kredo, 60, from the Galilee, said he feels “very pessimistic” about the current situation. “It is much easier for people to answer the call of fear and hatred,” he said.
Once outside the Kirya compound, the rally was to move onto speeches from several speakers, including from Galon and Shaffir.
A number of roads in the area were closed to traffic, including parts of the central Ibn Gvirol and Kaplan streets, for the duration of the march.