Hundreds of Israelis blocked roads at simultaneous demonstrations calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s resignation in Tel Aviv and Haifa on Thursday night.
The protest in Tel Aviv began in the city’s Rabin Square before spilling over onto the adjacent Ibn Gabirol Street. Demonstrators then marched to the Kiryat Hamemshala government complex on Menachem Begin Road, blocking traffic in both directions in the process.
The demonstrators had not received a permit to block the roads, but police decided to allow the peaceful procession to take place. Outside the Tel Aviv government complex, protesters also tried to block the Azrieli junction, but police prevented them from doing so.
In Haifa, the demonstration commenced at the Merkaz Hacarmel neighborhood, where protesters marched down Moriah Boulevard toward the nearby Karmeliya neighborhood, blocking traffic in both directions in the process.
יותר מאלף צועדים בתוך שבילי מתחם שרונה. יתכן וזה הכי הרבה אנשים שהיו כאן ברגע נתון אי פעם pic.twitter.com/r64GgolgAB
— Bar Peleg (@bar_peleg) August 27, 2020
Large traffic buildups were reported in both cities, with police advising drivers to find alternative routes rather than intersect with the demonstrators’ path.
Netanyahu’s Likud party blamed the state prosecutor’s office for the traffic blockages, after it issued new directives, saying protesters should only be placed on trial for disturbances during rallies in exceptional cases.
“The illegal demonstrations and blockages of roads that disrupt public order are a direct result of the outrageous decision of the state prosecutor to not take action against violators of the law,” Likud said in a statement. “When it comes to the anarchic left-wing protests against the prime minister, everything is allowed.”
The “Black Flags” protesters leading the Thursday night protests issued a statement in which they claimed “an entire generation is collapsing under the plague of corruption of the defendant Netanyahu, who instead of running the economy is busy with tax benefits for himself and his family. The State of Israel needs new leadership.”
Toward the end the rally, organizers in Tel Aviv applauded police for allowing the marches in both cities to take place. There weren’t any reports of police brutality, in contrast to recent protests.
Police were also preparing for a far larger protest outside the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem on Saturday night, for the 11th consecutive week.
Despite Supreme Court petitions against Jerusalem Chief Superintendent Niso Guetta who was filmed last week shoving and smacking a protester at last week’s anti-Netanyahu rally, Shlomi Bachar, head of operations for the Jerusalem police, told reporters Thursday that Guetta would be dispatched to Saturday’s demonstration as well.
Pictures captured by a wire service photographer showed Guetta kneeling on a supine protester and pushing his head to the ground with his elbow outside Netanyahu’s official residence, on Jerusalem’s Balfour Street.
Guetta claims he was assaulted by the demonstrators and that he did not use excessive force. The Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department has been probing the matter.
Earlier Thursday, the anti-Netanyahu Crime Minister grassroots group filed a petition to the Supreme Court demanding it implore police to explain why Guetta hadn’t been suspended for his conduct while he’s still under investigation.
Protesters have been holding regular rallies for several months outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, as well as in Tel Aviv and other areas, calling on the premier to resign due to his indictment on corruption charges.
The protests on Saturday nights tend to be the largest and have been the scene of clashes between protesters and law enforcement.
They have been joined by people protesting the government’s economic policies during the coronavirus pandemic, with crowds in the thousands and rising.