Lapid downplays rumors of renewed alliance with Bennett

3 hospitalized as cops clash with anti-government protesters after march on PM’s home

All 3 were hit by water cannon spray; one is a volunteer doctor; 9 arrested on 2nd day of ‘week of disruption’; Likud MK says coalition ‘has no achievements,’ mulls snap vote

Footage shows Israeli Anti-government protesters demonstrating in Jerusalem, June 17, 2024. (Oren Ziv/AFPTV/AFP)

Tens of thousands of protesters gathered Monday in front of the Knesset for a demonstration urging early elections and a deal with Hamas to secure the release of the hostages held in Gaza.

Many of the demonstrators then marched toward Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s home where violent clashes broke out with police, with at least three people requiring hospitalization.

Police said they had allowed the demonstration to unfold until some of the participants sought to break through crowd control fences set up around the perimeter of Netanyahu’s residence. At least nine were arrested, according to police.

One of the detainees is Noam Dan, whose cousin’s ex-husband Ofer Calderon is being held hostage in Gaza.

Protest organizers accused police of using excessive force, again employing a water cannon against protesters outside Netanyahu’s home.

One of the injured was a volunteer doctor. Dr. Tal Weissbach’s colleagues say she was standing off to the side of the road wearing a bright orange vest so she could be easily spotted by those seeking treatment. Weissbach was struck in the eye and later checked herself into the Tel Hashomer hospital, Channel 12 reported.

Two other protesters were taken by Magen David Adom medics to nearby Jerusalem hospitals. One of them was unconscious after being struck by the water cannon and the other — a 63-year-old woman — was severely injured after being thrown into a wall, the network said.

A traffic light and a street pole were seen knocked down after the intense clashes, with tables at a local pizza store also overturned.

Organizers accused the officers of acting at the command of National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who oversees the police and has been very critical of the anti-government demonstrations.

The demonstrations were part of the second day of what has been branded a “week of disruption” by various protest groups.

“No, we won’t agree to a reckless government,” protesters chanted earlier outside the Knesset. “No to fascism.”

There was also a chant about Netanyahu’s “guilt” over the failures of October 7 and another with a demand for new elections.

Netanyahu has repeatedly said elections should not be held while the war in Gaza is still ongoing. The next general elections are formally scheduled for October 2026.

“Over the weekend, we heard [Gadi] Eisenkot say that the Prime Minister is controlled by Kahanists and is unable make decisions,” said protest leader Shikma Bressler, referencing a television interview given by the former security cabinet observer.

“After what happened on October 7, and in light of this government’s extremism and denial of its failure, it needs to return the mandate to the people,” she added.

She also accused Netanyahu of taking pleasure in the deaths of Israeli soldiers, charging that Israel “has a prime minister who smiles as IDF officers knock on the doors of more families” to notify them of the death of their loved ones, in reference to a Knesset plenum vote held last week while news that four soldiers were killed in Gaza hours before remained barred from publication.

Anti-government protest leader Shikma Bressler speaks at a rally urging a hostage deal and early elections near the Knesset in Jerusalem, June 17, 2024. (Sam Sokol/Times of Israel)

Members of the crowd booed as video was shown of coalition lawmakers voting for a highly contentious bill to lower the age Haredi yeshiva students are exempted from military service. A few of the demonstrators screamed “traitors” while the rest chanted “shame.”

Among those at the rally was opposition MK Moshe Tur-Paz of Yesh Atid, who told The Times of Israel that he came out to support the protesters, adding “We have to go to elections and change the government.”

Asked if he believed it is possible to bring down the government, the centrist lawmaker answered in the affirmative.

People attend a rally urging a hostage deal and early elections near the Knesset in Jerusalem, June 17, 2024. (Sam Sokol/Times of Israel)

Also Monday, a lawmaker in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud made a rare break from the party line, floating snap elections due to the government’s ineffectiveness.

“We are a government with no achievements, that is the truth,” Likud MK Eliyahu Revivo told the Knesset Channel, joining a growing chorus of leaders pushing for Israel to go to the polls early.

Asked if elections were needed — as opposition leaders and protesters have been demanding — Revivo answered, “Maybe, it must be weighed. Elections are one of the possibilities.” He added that he assumed others in Likud share this view, but that he nevertheless did not foresee the government collapsing in the coming weeks.

Likud MK Eliyahu Revivo leads a Knesset committee meeting, Jerusalem, December 25, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Likud MK said he believes that even if the party loses its grip on power, it would be worth it because “Israel comes before the leadership.” He also charged that all parties were plagued by an “epidemic” of refusing to relinquish positions of power.

Questioned about Netanyahu’s insistence that elections not be held amid the ongoing war, Revivo said, “We aren’t really in the midst of a war, truth be told. What’s going on right now is not war. It may be fighting or an operation,” while shrugging off the interviewer’s response that the prime minister continues to refer to the Gaza campaign as a war.

Since the October 7 massacre, which saw Hamas terrorists murder 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnap 251, Netanyahu’s approval ratings have plummeted, with almost every poll showing Likud would not be able to form a coalition with its current coalition partners if new elections held today.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a Knesset plenum vote on reviving an ultra-Orthodox military enlistment bill, early June 11, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In a radio interview later Monday, Revivo clarified, “I don’t think that elections at the moment are necessarily our destiny, I don’t think they are necessarily correct, but if this how we can make a change right now, it shouldn’t be ruled out.”

“I don’t know that with a different government [the war] would have been conducted differently, but I can’t settle for a compromise… let the public decide,” he told Radio 103FM.

The lawmaker also said that he had tried to put together a “broad, stable, Zionist government with an agreed date for elections,” but found little appetite among opposition figures. “There are no leaders on the other side,” he charged.

Revivo’s comments came as Yair Golan, the new Labor Party leader, called for “early and quick elections,” insisting that the “reckless government must go home.”

Speaking to reporters during a Labor weekly faction meeting at the Knesset, Golan said “Israel faces dramatic security challenges, led by Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iran.” He also denounced the government as “weak, failing and unable to deal with these threats,” saying it must be replaced.

Labor chief Yair Golan speaks at the Labor party’s weekly faction meeting in the Knesset in Jerusalem, June 17, 2024. (Sam Sokol/Times of Israel)

“The protest will expand, strengthen and grow. Those who do not want to set an early date for the elections will find themselves dragged there by the pressure of the street, the will of the public and the growing sense of disgust,” Golan added.

Speaking later at the demonstration outside the Knesset, Golan excruciated over its policies and management of the war.

“We are in the harshest civilian battle since the founding of the state in 1948,” he said. “We need to tell this government: Enough! We will return to being a democratic country. We are not mercenaries for this government and we do not finance its messianic goals.”

“We are conducting fierce battles in the north and in the south, and in order to win, we need to be strong at home. Fight corruption, fight the messianism. We are one people united by equality, peace and justice,” Golan continued, calling for the release of the hostages and for those displaced by the fighting to return home.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Yair Lapid downplayed rumors that he may renew his prior partnership with former premier Naftali Bennett, who last week hinted at a political comeback.

Asked by a reporter ahead of his Yesh Atid faction meeting if he was considering joining forces, Lapid praised Bennett but said little to indicate that their previous close collaboration could resume as before.

As members of his Yesh Atid party chuckled, Lapid welcomed the prospect of a Bennett return, stating, “Naftali and I have been friends for many years. I love him and it is good and important that he return to political life. I want more moral people in politics.”

“We speak all the time,” he added.

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid speaks at the outset of his Yesh Atid party’s weekly faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, June 17, 2024. (Sam Sokol/Times of Israel)

Bennett, who led the now-defunct Yamina party, appeared to hint at a return to politics last week, tweeting that it would be possible to rebuild a broad unity coalition similar to the short-lived one he established with Lapid in 2021.

A monthly poll released by the Jewish People Policy Institute on Monday showed a low level of trust in Netanyahu, and in the government more broadly. Some 56% of Jewish Israelis said they have a “very low” level of trust in the premier, while 74% of Arabs agreed.

Almost three-fourths of Israelis said they had a “very low” or “fairly low” level of trust in Netanyahu’s government, a slight decline compared to the May poll.

Lazar Berman, Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report. 

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