Dozens of protesters began amassing outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official Jerusalem residence on Saturday afternoon for the weekly demonstration against the premier, amid his ongoing trial for corruption charges.
At least three people were detained by police on suspicion of public disorder, according to multiple reports in the Hebrew-language press. Activists also accused the police of stopping and diverting a bus full of protesters at the entrance to the city earlier Saturday but the police said in a statement that they stopped two buses and detained two people while the others were allowed to proceed to the weekly protest.
The Crime Minister anti-Netanyahu protest group, one of the weekly organizers of the demonstrations, said in a statement that the premier was “entrenched at the Balfour residence” and “refusing to accept the election results.” The group called Netanyahu “a corrupt leader at the end of his journey who feeds on the chaos and, for him, the world could burn as long as he escapes justice.”
Israel held its fourth national elections in two years last month, which yielded further political deadlock. Netanyahu is currently charged with forming a coalition of at least 61 MKs, a task that is proving increasingly difficult as he battles right-wing, would-be allies. If he fails to form a government by May 4, President Reuven Rivlin will need to either task a second candidate with doing so or send the mandate back to the Knesset to directly choose a lawmaker to do the job.
Netanyahu is also engaged in a long-shot bid to hold direct elections for prime minister without a fresh vote for parliament. It currently lacks sufficient support and would first require amending one of Israel’s quasi-constitutional Basic Laws — necessitating the very parliamentary majority eluding Netanyahu. It would also likely face a formidable legal challenge in the High Court of Justice, as it would entail sweeping legislative reforms by a caretaker government.
The Crime Minister group further called on Saturday for “courage, determination and understanding of the moment” from Israeli leaders. “The State of Israel is currently in a position to be rescued from the great democratic and social crisis of recent decades,” it went on.
The protest against Netanyahu in Jerusalem is set to begin later Saturday and will likely run into the night. 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.
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.
At its height in mid-summer 2020, the anti-Netanyahu protest movement saw tens of thousands take to the streets in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, with thousands more at bridges and intersections across the country.
One of the largest demonstrations so far was held on March 20, in what was the final mass protest before the latest Knesset elections. Tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered in Jerusalem on that Saturday evening.
Protesters have also criticized his government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.