Protesters in Tel Aviv, outside Netanyahu’s Caesarea home call for elections now

Thousands march in Tel Aviv, where sister of Oct. 7 victim demands that government be ousted; displaced border region residents accuse government of abandoning them

Protesters demanding elections rally at Habima Square in Tel Aviv, January 6, 2024 (Gilad Furst)
Protesters demanding elections rally at Habima Square in Tel Aviv, January 6, 2024 (Gilad Furst)

Thousands of protesters rallied in Tel Aviv and outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s private residence in Caesarea on Saturday night, calling for immediate new national elections amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

The main demonstration took place at Habima Square in Tel Aviv, while smaller rallies were held in Haifa and outside Netanyahu’s home in Caesarea.

Organizers of the Tel Aviv protest said that about 20,000 people attended. Among those who participated were people who had been evacuated from the areas near the Gaza Strip and the northern border with Lebanon due to terrorist rocket fire from there, and relatives of people who were killed in the initial Hamas attack.

The sister of Shira Eylon, who was murdered by Hamas terrorists at the Supernova rave outside Kibbutz Re’im on October 7, said in a speech at the protest in Tel Aviv that her sister “was abandoned to a shocking death.”

“I believe that everyone has a role in the world and that Shira’s role was to spread light and unite those around her,” Adar Eylon said. “My role is to ensure that happens. I promised her that this didn’t happen for nothing. The deaths of our loved ones were not in vain.”

“The change begins within us and starts with worthy leadership. Without leadership like this, we cannot begin the healing process,” added Eylon.

Calls for new elections have been growing steadily, even as the country is still reeling from Hamas’s October 7 shock attack, in which thousands of Hamas-led terrorists invaded Israel by land, sea, and air, killing 1,200 people — a majority of them civilians — and took 240 others hostage to Gaza, as a barrage of rockets was fired at Israel. Gaza terror groups have continued sporadic fire at the south and central regions ever since.

Israel responded with a military campaign to destroy Hamas, remove it from power, and release the hostages. As war erupted in the south, the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group began to launch attacks along the northern border, including firing rockets at communities. Tensions have steadily escalated with deaths on both sides of the boundary, mostly among Hezbollah operatives. On Saturday the terror group fired dozens of rockets at Israel.

The rocket fire in the south and north has displaced over 100,000 Israelis from their homes.

In Haifa, Noam Yaron, a father of six who was evacuated from the northern border town of Kiryat Shmona, said that his life was “interrupted in one moment by the war that was forced on us.”

“In a moment, we became discarded refugees, living out of suitcases, utterly hopeless. With no answers, and nothing on the horizon, for three months,” he said.

At the Caesarea protest, Hani Ricardo, whose daughter Oriya was murdered at the Supernova festival, accused the government of not taking responsibility for the failures that enabled the disastrous attack on the country.

“Since October 7, I have been waiting, like many others, for members of the corrupt government, who to this day have not found the time to look us all in the eye. They look in any direction but not in our direction,” she said.

At the end of the protest, Ricardo called on participants to march on Netanyahu’s home. Police blocked their protest but allowed a few dozen to approach closer to the residence, Haaretz reported.

Last weekend saw one of the first major explicitly anti-government protests since the war began on October 7, with demonstrators in Tel Aviv calling for “elections now” as they flocked to Habima Square, many bearing banners that were highly antagonistic toward Netanyahu and his hardline coalition, as well as the war in Gaza.

Many demonstrators brought Israeli flags that had been used during the anti-judicial overhaul protests before October 7, lending the demonstration a distinct anti-government feel that has been absent from most major demonstrations since Hamas committed its atrocities three months ago.

Gali Besodo, a resident of Sderot who temporarily resides in Tel Aviv after residents were evacuated amid the ongoing war in Gaza, said life in southern Israel has been difficult for years and placed blame for the unprecedented failures of October 7 squarely on the government.

“We were taught that raising children under fire is normal. The government didn’t just transfer suitcases of money to Hamas, it sold us, the residents of the [Gaza border area], along the way. It gave up on us and the lie exploded in our faces on October 7,” she said, according to Haaretz.

Though many top figures in the military and security services have publicly admitted failings in preventing the October 7 attack, government ministers, including Netanyahu, have refused to accept any real culpability for the failures that enabled the assault.

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