Netanyahu greeted at White House by Israeli, pro-Palestinian demonstrators
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Netanyahu greeted at White House by Israeli, pro-Palestinian demonstrators

Anti-corruption protests follow PM to Washington; some 50 marchers, draped in keffiyehs and carrying Palestinian flags, chant, ‘Free Palestine’

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Protesters against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside the White House on September 15, 2020 (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)
Protesters against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside the White House on September 15, 2020 (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)

WASHINGTON — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was met at the White House on Tuesday by both Israeli anti-corruption protesters and dozens of pro-Palestinian demonstrators.

Over a dozen Israeli expats gathered at the entrance to the White House to protest against Netanyahu ahead of his arrival to sign normalization agreements with the UAE and Bahrain.

“You can run away from Israel, but not from your corruption case,” one of the activists shouted.

“Fraud, bribery breach of trust,” the protesters chanted in English, reciting the charges against Netanyahu in his corruption trial, with heavy Israeli accents.

Netanyahu had hoped that his visit to the US would provide him a brief respite from his domestic troubles, where he faces harsh criticism for his handling of the coronavirus crisis, and his alleged corruption.

However, he has found it hard to escape the demonstrators.

Anti-corruption protesters who have demonstrated against Netanyahu for weeks, including outside his official residence in Jerusalem, had also taken their protest to Ben Gurion Airport Sunday evening, briefly closing the main roads into the facility by stopping their cars on the roads, as the prime minister headed to the airport for his US trip. They carried banners reading, “You’re detached, we’re fed up” and “Bibi, don’t come back.”

Netanyahu was also greeted outside the White House by dozens of pro-Palestinian demonstrators opposed to the signing of historic accords between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Among the protesters were members of he anti-Zionist, ultra-Orthodox Neturei Karta sect.

Demonstrators protest against the signing of historic accords between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain near the White House in Washington, DC, September 15, 2020. (Daniel SLIM / AFP)

“This is a backstab to the Palestinian people,” said Zeina Hutchison, head of a coalition of pro-Palestinian associations behind the rally.

“What they call a peace deal is endorsing the occupation and apartheid,” said the 39-year-old activist, who was born in the Palestinian territories and now lives in Virginia. “It’s not new but it’s visible — they are investing in colonization.”

Israel normalized relations with longtime official foes Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates at the White House ceremony on Tuesday, in deals brokered by the United States.

US President Donald Trump said similar deals were close between the Jewish state and “five or six” other nations.

For Mark Zayyad, a 54-year-old New Yorker who traveled to Washington for the demonstration, “Donald Trump is destroying the Middle East.”

“This peace is wrong,” he added.

Senan Shaq of the US Palestinian Council said Trump “does not have the right to determine the solution to give the Palestinian land to the Israelis.”

People protest against Israel near the White House in Washington, DC, September 15, 2020. (Photo by Daniel SLIM / AFP)

As part of the normalization agreement with the UAE, Israel agreed to suspend planned annexations in the West Bank, although Netanyahu has said the plans remain on the table in the long-run.

The 50 or so activists gathered in Washington, draped in keffiyehs and carrying Palestinian flags, marched outside the White House chanting slogans such as “Free Palestine.”

“If you want to make peace, it’s fine. But Palestinians deserve to have something too. We are humans too,” thundered 76-year-old Rashid Awad.

Dressed in a blue suit, Awad promised that neither he nor his wife would vote for Trump in the November 3 presidential election. “He spreads hatred in this country,” he said.

AFP contributed to this report.

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