Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara were reportedly moved to a secure room in their Jerusalem residence last week after demonstrators at a weekly protest calling for his resignation breached a police checkpoint outside the compound.
According to Hebrew media, Netanyahu, his wife and several other staff members were rushed to the secure side-room in the residence where they waited for roughly 40 minutes before the premier’s security detail from the Shin Bet deemed it was safe for the prime minister to return to work.
By arriving at 4 p.m., two hours before the demonstration was set to begin, dozens of protesters apparently caught police off guard and managed to get closer to the Prime Minister’s Residence than usual.
Footage showed the activists passing an initial temporary barricade, running about 100 yards down the street before they reached the back gate to the compound on Smolenskin Street.
קריים מיניסטר טוענים שהמחסום שתראו בתיעוד הוא לכלי רכב ואפשר היה לעבור והרחוב טרם נסגר. אני רואה המון רץ לכיוון הרחוב וחלק מהם גם כמעט מפילים שוטר. pic.twitter.com/9PWlunSdfX
— Yossi Eli יוסי אלי (@Yossi_eli) January 8, 2021
Most stood and chanted slogans, but others scuffled with officers who tried to clear them away.
Eight anti-Netanyahu activists were arrested in the skirmishes that ensued. Security has since been tightened around the Jerusalem compound and an additional fence was erected near the scene of the breached checkpoint.
The incident took place on Saturday, January 2, but was leaked to the three major TV networks and aired simultaneously on Friday evening in what some TV analysts said was an attempt from Netanyahu’s aides to draw a parallel between the storming of the US Capitol on Wednesday by supporters of US President Donald Trump and the anti-Netanyahu demonstrators in Israel.
“Clearly, of course, releasing this now is designed to create some sense of parallel with the attack on the Capitol,” Channel 13’s Alon Ben-David said. “That is not the case; there was no threat to the life of the prime minister and no real likelihood that the demonstrators would break into the PM’s official residence.”
Citing unnamed sources, Channel 13 said that Netanyahu’s security detail had simply been following protocol. Netanyahu himself thought that the precaution taken was unnecessary but he was “emotionally stirred” nonetheless by the incident, the network reported.
Statements from the Black Flag and Crime Minister groups that protest on a weekly basis against Netanyahu issued statements denying accusations that they had tried to breach the Prime Minister’s Residence, calling the reports “lies.”
The Shin Bet security service declined to comment on the reports.
Demonstrators have been holding regular protests for months against Netanyahu, 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.