Thousands Protest Outside PM Residence

YERUSHALAYIM (AP/Hamodia) -

Thousands of Israelis on Tuesday demonstrated outside the official residence of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, calling on the embattled leader to resign as he faces a trial on corruption charges and grapples with a deepening coronavirus crisis.

PM Netanyahu has seen his popularity drop in recent weeks as he comes under criticism from several directions. A loose-knit movement has held a number of demonstrations saying that Netanyahu is unfit to lead at a time when he is on trial. Others have taken to the streets to protest his government’s handling of a worsening economic crisis caused by the coronavirus.

The rowdy demonstration Tuesday evening was led by anti-corruption activists who refer to Netanyahu as the “crime minister.” Many held posters, saying “You are detached. We are fed up,” or saying there is “no way” a politician under indictment can be prime minister. Demonstrators, defying orders to maintain social distancing requirements, chanted slogans and blew horns outside the Netanyahus’ home.

Some waved black flags and others carried torches and attempted to break through police barricades. Small scuffles between police and some protesters ensued, but there were no immediate reports of arrests.

Now, the main source of opposition to Netanyahu is in the streets. On Monday, police dispersed a group of activists who had set up tents outside his official residence in central Yerushalayim.

At the same time, Netanyahu is facing a growing wave of discontent over his handling of the coronavirus crisis. After receiving widespread praise for quickly sealing Israel’s borders in March and imposing other restrictions, Netanyahu acknowledged last week that he re-opened the economy too quickly. Public opinion polls show his approval ratings plunging as support for the opposition grows.

The country is now experiencing a sharp rise in coronavirus cases and the economy is struggling as unemployment remains above 20 percent. Critics accuse him of leading a bloated, out-of-touch government and moving too slowly to help struggling Israelis.

Netanyahu has promised a “safety net” to help the self-employed, unemployed and small businesses, and has been holding a series of meetings to ensure that promised stipends are quickly paid out.