Thousands of people protested against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu throughout Israel Saturday night, though the weekly demonstrations appeared markedly smaller than in previous weeks.
A few thousand people were demonstrating outside Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem, while several thousand also protested in Tel Aviv and Haifa. Several hundred people were also demonstrating near Netanyahu’s home in Caesarea. Regular protests in squares and on highway overpasses throughout the country were also reported.
In Jerusalem, many protesters held Israeli flags or black or pink flags, which the grassroots movements behind the demonstrations have adopted as symbols. With the weather cooling down ahead of the rainy winter season, turnout Saturday appeared to be lower than in recent weeks.
Demonstrators have been holding regular protests against Netanyahu, demanding he resign over his trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, as well as his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Protesters at the Chords Bridge at the entrance to Jerusalem reported a rock was thrown at them, as did demonstrators at an intersection outside the central city of Ramat Hasharon, according to the Haaretz daily. The rock thrown near Ramat Hasharon broke the rear windshield of a car.
The newspaper also said a bottle was thrown at a protester on Route 4 in the north, hitting him in the head. There was no word on his condition.
Protesters have increasingly faced violence from counterprotesters and have called for police protection. Police have made some arrests of suspects in attacks.
Netanyahu’s Likud party denounced the months-long protests.
“After Prime Minister Netanyahu brought three peace deals, millions of [coronavirus] vaccines and is maintaining Israel’s high credit rating with the backing of the majority of the citizens of the State of Israel, it’s unfortunate the opposition led by Yair Lapid continues to divide and incite without pause,” Likud said, referencing the opposition leader.
“A vaccine will likely be found for the coronavirus. The question is when will a vaccine be found for the ‘Just not Bibi [movement]?'” the party added, using Netanyahu’s nickname.
Netanyahu and his political allies have frequently lashed out at the protesters.
Lapid fired back at Netanyahu, saying his criticism was intended to divert attention from “his complete failure to deal with the virus.”
Earlier, 18 people were arrested during clashes with police after hundreds marched down the major Route 1 highway to Jerusalem, near Abu Gosh. Police said the march was held without permission, while activists insisted they had received approval beforehand.
According to Hebrew media reports, four MKs marched with the demonstrators — Moshe Ya’alon and Ofer Shelah from Yesh Atid-Telem, Eli Avidar from Yisrael Beiteinu and Meretz’s Yair Golan.
The protests have gone on for months and kept a spotlight on Netanyahu at a time when the long-serving leader’s popularity has declined because of his handling of the virus outbreak.
The country is emerging in gradual stages from a monthlong lockdown that the government imposed in September to tamp down infections. Restrictions still in place have kept event halls, culture venues, hotels and restaurants closed while the economy continues to take a hit.