Self-employed, anti-corruption protesters to join for Saturday rally in Tel Aviv

Two ongoing protest movements to merge for demonstration in park limited to 8,000 attendees amid fears of virus spread

Self-employed Israelis protest at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, calling for financial support from the Israeli government on July 11, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Self-employed Israelis protest at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, calling for financial support from the Israeli government on July 11, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Several organizations representing self-employed workers said Thursday they will join with anti-corruption “black flag” protesters for a rally in Tel Aviv this weekend.

The umbrella group for self-employed workers, which includes organizations for people in the tourism, transportation and culture industries, dubbed itself the “Cabinet of Hope.”

Saturday evening’s rally will be held at Charles Clore Park on the Tel Aviv waterfront.

The group tried to schedule its protest for the city’s more prominent Rabin Square, but police vetoed a large demonstration at the location due to fears of virus spread, the Ynet news site reported. At least one protester who attended a densely crowded economic protest in the square on Saturday was later diagnosed with the coronavirus.

The self-employed group planned to appeal the ruling, but instead decided to join the anti-corruption protesters, who had already received permission to demonstrate, Haaretz reported. Police approved the protest at the park on the condition that attendees adhere to virus regulations and attendance stays below 8,000.

Several other groups, including organizations representing the restaurant and nightlife industries, said they would not participate because they had opened a dialogue with the Prime Minister’s Office, Ynet said.

The self-employed protest organizers previously sought to remain apolitical, barring partisan speakers from their rally last weekend, and reportedly asking attendees with anti-Netanyahu shirts to leave.

Border Police officers scuffle with demonstrators during a protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside the PM’s residence in Jerusalem, July 14, 2020. (Yonatan sindel/FLASH90)

Dotan Sofer, one of the upcoming event’s organizers, said Thursday at a press event, “We’re here because of neglect and failure. Because of the terrible policy of the State of Israel that did not save the self-employed or suppress the pandemic.”

“No one takes responsibility for the State of Israel and its citizens, and we have lost faith,” Sofer said.

Liz Azoulai, another member of the “Cabinet of Hope,” said at the briefing, “We will stand there and cry out for the unemployed who have been left without a future.”

“There are those that try to silence them and not let them protest against the government, which is deteriorating into poverty and illness,” Azoulai said.

The black flag protests are an ongoing movement against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is standing trial in a series of graft cases.

Demonstrations have been held regularly around the country, with protesters waving signs reading “crime minister” and calling for Netanyahu to resign.

Netanyahu faces charges of fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases, as well as bribery in one of them.

He has denied wrongdoing and claimed the charges are part of an effort by political opponents, the media, law enforcement and prosecutors to remove him from office.

Hundreds of anti-corruption protesters gathered outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem on Thursday, demanding that he resign over his indictment on corruption charges.

It was the second such demonstration this week at the junction of Gaza Street and Balfour Street, the road where the Prime Minister’s Residence is located. The previous protest, attended by several thousand people on Tuesday, turned violent and dozens were arrested during clashes with police.

Police use water cannons on demonstrators during a protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem, July 14, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Alongside his legal woes, the premier is facing a rising tide of anger and criticism over his response to the financial crisis set off by the coronavirus pandemic.

Over the weekend, some 10,000 people descended on Rabin Square in Tel Aviv to protest the government’s handling of the economic crisis and what they say is insufficient aid offered to small business owners and professionals in the hard-hit entertainment and hospitality industries.

The protest was the largest in Israel since the start of the pandemic.

A virus handout plan Netanyahu announced on Wednesday drew fire from his coalition partners, the Treasury and members of the public.

According to a Channel 13 poll released on Sunday evening, 61 percent of Israelis disapprove of Netanyahu’s overall handling of the pandemic, and 75% are unhappy with how his government has handled the economic fallout of the health crisis. Only 16% said that they were satisfied with the government’s economic response.

As of Wednesday, 853,843 were out of work, amounting to an unemployment rate of 21%, the Israeli Employment Service said.

Israel is contending with a surge in infections, hitting a record 1,939 new cases in 24 hours on Thursday evening. As of Thursday night, there were 25,305 active cases in Israel.

The government on Friday announced fresh lockdown measures which will shutter gyms and dining at restaurants, and close non-essential stores and businesses on weekends, in another blow to the faltering economy.

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