Protesters rally outside lawmakers homes to demand elections, return of hostages

Demonstrations yell ‘shame,’ demand hostage deal now, blame government for October 7 massacre; Eisenkot urged to ‘be a leader’ and bolt coalition

Michael Horovitz is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel

In a photo provided by anti-government activists, protesters hold a banner calling for elections outside the home of Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel, in Tel Aviv, February 22, 2024. (Udi Salmanovich)
In a photo provided by anti-government activists, protesters hold a banner calling for elections outside the home of Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel, in Tel Aviv, February 22, 2024. (Udi Salmanovich)

Protesters rallied outside the homes of ministers and lawmakers for the second week in a row Thursday night, calling for the government’s resignation and urging an agreement for the release of hostages held in Gaza.

In Tel Aviv, dozens of demonstrators gathered outside the homes of Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel, Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis and National Resilience Minister Yitzhak Wasserlauf.

Similar numbers of protesters also rallied at the homes of Economy Minister Nir Barkat in Jerusalem, Diaspora Minister Amichai Chikli in Kibbutz Hanaton, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in Amikam, Education Minister Yoav Kisch in Hod Hasharon, war cabinet minister Gadi Eizenkot in Herzliya, and MK Danny Danon in Raanana.

The rallies were organized by the Kaplan Force protest group, one of the organizations that led weekly demonstrations against the government’s controversial judicial overhaul for much of 2023.

For a period before the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war, Thursday evening protests were held weekly outside ministers’ homes but were halted after Hamas’s October 7 massacre. They appeared to restart last week as public support for the government has plunged.

Beyond alleging mismanagement of the war effort, protesters have sought to pressure leaders into reaching a deal with the Hamas terror group to free the hostages stuck in Gaza.

Protesters repeated chants of “shame” against the government and “now” urging a deal to release the hostages, waved Israeli flags, and held various signs holding the government responsible for the destruction of the October 7 massacre by the Hamas terror group, and calling for elections.

Outside the home of Eisenkot — a member of the National Unity party which joined the coalition after the outbreak of war — over 100 protesters carried signs urging him to “be a leader,” in an apparent call for the faction to bolt the government.

Demonstrators also held a minute of silence for soldiers who had fallen in the ongoing war, including Eisenkot’s son, Gal, who was killed in battle in December.

In a photo provided by anti-government activists, protesters call for elections outside war cabinet minister Gadi Eisenkot’s home in Herzliya, February 22, 2024. (Micha Vardi)

Since the October 7 massacre, which saw Hamas terrorists kill 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnap 253, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s approval ratings have plummeted with every poll showing his Likud party would not be able to form a coalition with current political allies were elections held now.

As a public campaign for early elections gains traction, a Channel 12 poll last week asked respondents whether elections should be advanced. A majority of respondents – 51% – said a vote should take place early, while 39% said it shouldn’t and 10% said they do not know.

Among supporters of the parties in Netanyahu’s right-wing and Haredi bloc, 20% of respondents said elections should be called and 68% said they shouldn’t. Among supporters of the anti-Netanyahu bloc, 81% of respondents said elections should be called while 13% said they shouldn’t.

In a Saturday evening press briefing, Netanyahu asserted that the next vote for the Knesset will take place “in a few years,” per the Israeli election cycle.

The next general elections are formally scheduled for October 2026, though many believe that Netanyahu will face increased pressure to call new elections once the war ends, with many Israelis seeing him as responsible for failings in the lead-up to the massacre.

Countering the premier’s assertion, an unnamed senior Likud member speaking to Ynet said Netanyahu will not remain prime minister after the war between Israel and Hamas concludes.

It is believed that 130 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza — not all of them alive — after 105 civilians were released from Hamas captivity during a weeklong truce in late November, and four hostages were released prior to that. Three hostages have been rescued by troops alive, and the bodies of 11 hostages have also been recovered, including three mistakenly killed by the military. The IDF has confirmed the deaths of 30 of those still held by Hamas, citing new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza.

One more person is listed as missing since October 7, and their fate is still unknown.

Hamas is also holding the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin since 2014, as well as two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who are both thought to be alive after entering the Strip of their own accord in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

Most Popular
read more: