Hundreds of anti-Netanyahu protesters gathered Sunday at Kibbutz Sde Boker in the south to protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who arrived there to speak at an annual memorial service for Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion.
Over 100 cars carrying around 250 demonstrators drove to the kibbutz where Ben-Gurion spent his final years, with activists saying Netanyahu has failed to live up to the values of Israel’s legendary first leader.
Demonstrators have been holding regular protests against Netanyahu, demanding he resign over his trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, as well as his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ben-Gurion’s grandson Yariv Ben-Eliezer was among those who attended the protest to denounce the premier.
Demonstrators “came from all over the country to express themselves in protest and say, ‘Fuck Netanyahu, and long live Israel,” he said.
נכד בן גוריון נגד נתניהו. עכשיו עם הקובץ. pic.twitter.com/0061Aw0n81
— Almog Ben-zikri (@almogbenzikri) November 22, 2020
The Black Flag protest group said in a statement: “The State of Israel needs to heal from the enormous damage caused by Netanyahu. Netanyahu is not Ben-Gurion. Ben-Gurion was involved in building the country and gathering in the exiles — Netanyahu is busy dismantling society.”
On Saturday, activists from Sde Boker wrote the protest slogan “Go” in large letters on the helicopter landing pad used by Netanyahu when he arrived at the ceremony. The slogan has become a common cry for anti-Netanyahu activists in recent months, who demand his resignation or removal from office.
מחר ייערך טקס אזכרתו של דוד בן גוריון. באופן מסורתי, נתניהו מגיע במסוק לאירוע שמתקיים בשדה בוקר. היום פעילים משדה בוקר צבעו את המנחת בברכת ברוכים הבאים.@almogbenzikri
צילם: אילן בנשלום#בושה__וחרפה pic.twitter.com/UBuRUEh7FR
— דבורה ???????????? (@devorah555) November 21, 2020
Netanyahu, in a speech at the event, spoke out against his supporters who verbally assaulted the family of a fallen Israeli soldier that hosted a group of protesters near the premier’s home in Caesarea last week.
“We established a democratic state, free and vibrant. It is governed by the will of the people,” he said. “There is freedom of expression, but there are reservations. Do not hurt someone through their feeling of loss, neither from the right nor from the left.”
Public figures were particularly appalled when one Netanyahu supporter loudly expressed his wish that the family lose another son. The harassment was strongly condemned by many politicians, including Netanyahu himself.
Israel Defense Forces chief Aviv Kohavi made a rare foray into politics on Friday to condemn the incident, calling it a “red line” in an op-ed sent to media outlets titled “Don’t touch the bereaved.”
On Saturday evening, weekly protests against Netanyahu were held amid wintry weather, as demonstrators gathered in plazas, intersections and overpasses throughout the country for the rallies, now on their 22nd week.
Turnout was far lower than usual, possibly due to the rain and cold.
The largest demonstrations appeared to be near the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, where some 2,000-3,000 people gathered. In Caesarea, near the premier’s private home, some 1,000-2,000 people were reported to have rallied, following the controversy over the fallen soldier’s family. Several hundred people protested in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square and in Haifa.
The protests have gone on for months and kept a spotlight on Netanyahu at a time when the long-serving leader’s popularity has declined because of his handling of the virus outbreak.
Netanyahu and his political allies have frequently lashed out at the protesters.