Hundreds of people gathered Friday evening in protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as part of ongoing demonstrations over his indictment on corruption charges and handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Demonstrators said they would not let Thursday’s news of the historic normalization agreement reached between Israel and the United Arab Emirates distract from Netanyahu’s failures.
“This agreement does not make our government any more functional, this agreement does not make the prime minister any less corrupt, this agreement, above all, will not make us go away,” protester Eli Brook told the crowd.
About 1,000 people attended the weekly Friday protests, which are called “Kabbalat Shabbat,” and tend to attract more young families than the larger Saturday night protests, which have frequently seen clashes between protesters and police.
About 100 others protested outside Netanyahu’s private residence in Caesarea.
Protesters have long been holding regular rallies outside the Prime Minister’s Residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem, as well as in Tel Aviv and other areas, calling on the premier to resign due to his indictment on corruption charges. They have been joined in recent weeks by people protesting the government’s economic policies during the coronavirus pandemic, with crowds in the thousands and rising.
Netanyahu is on trial for a series of cases in which he allegedly received lavish gifts from billionaire friends and traded regulatory favors with media moguls for more favorable coverage of himself and his family. The prime minister has denied any wrongdoing, accusing the media and law enforcement of a witch hunt to oust him from office.
Last Saturday tens of thousands took part in protests across the country.
The main protest took place outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, where anti-Netanyahu rallies have been held regularly in recent months. Hebrew media reports put turnout at over 15,000 people, while organizers estimated the crowd at some 32,000 people, based on the number of armbands given out to demonstrators as they entered the square.
Hundreds of police officers were deployed at the scene.
The demonstration appeared to be the largest yet of a growing movement that has seen thousands take to streets to rally against Netanyahu over the past month. Smaller protests were also held in Caesarea outside Netanyahu’s private residence, and at highway overpasses nationwide.
The number of families with children was especially prominent at the Jerusalem demonstration, in addition to the groups of young people.
Many activists dressed up as extraterrestrials, in mocking homage to the prime minister’s son Yair Netanyahu, who earlier last week derided the protesters as “aliens.”
Representatives of independent businesspeople joined the protest, as no separate demonstration of those battered economically by the pandemic was held. Organizers instead called for a single, unified demonstration to be held at the Prime Minister’s residence.