‘Change criminal rule’: Anti-Netanyahu protesters rally ahead of election

Large demonstrations planned next week, in last weekend before vote; one group hopes to ‘bring the spirit of the protest to the ballot box’

Anti-Netanyahu protesters in Eilat on March 13, 2021. (Courtesy: Kumi Israel/The Black Flags)
Anti-Netanyahu protesters in Eilat on March 13, 2021. (Courtesy: Kumi Israel/The Black Flags)

With just 10 days until Israel’s 2021 elections, protesters rallied across Israel on Saturday evening in the 38th week of widespread demonstrations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his indictment on graft charges and handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The main demonstrations were held outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem and Netanyahu’s private home in the coastal city of Caesaria. Several hundred demonstrators gathered in each of the locations. Smaller protests took place at highway overpasses and intersections around the country.

“Criminal rule is changed in the ballot box,” one of the protest signs read in Tel Aviv, the Maariv news site reported.

The Black Flags protest movement said that next week, with just a few days left until the general election, they are planning a larger, country-wide protest to encourage Israelis to go and vote.

The Ein Matzav (“No Way”) group, one of the leading protest organizations, said it was imperative to “bring the spirit of the protest to the ballot box, and to ensure everyone comes out to vote to give us back our country.”

Israel is preparing to hold new elections on March 23, the nation’s fourth vote in two years.

Demonstrators have been holding regular protests against Netanyahu for months, demanding he resign over his trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. They have also criticized his government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Netanyahu denies wrongdoing and claims the indictments are part of an effort by political rivals, the media, police and prosecutors to remove him from office.

Over the last few weeks, a number of violent incidents towards demonstrators have been reported.

“The accused and his supporters will stop at nothing to harm the protest,” the Black Flags protest movement, one of several leading the regular rallies, said in a statement last week. “Cyber activity, physical violence and incitement from Likud [activists’] cars have all become routine.”

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