Thousands of Israelis protested Tuesday in front of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem, demanding his resignation as the government comes under fire over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Some placards carried by demonstrators read “Netanyahu’s corruption makes us sick” and “Netanyahu, resign.”
One protest organizer, reserve General Amir Haskel, urged the crowd gathered on July 14, the “231st anniversary of the French revolution” to “demand liberty, equality and fraternity.”
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Police were out in force for the demonstration.
Many protesters wore masks but did not maintain social distancing.
“The most deadly virus is not COVID-19, but corruption,” protester Laurent Cige, who came from Tel Aviv to take part, told AFP.
Netanyahu, who in May forged a new unity government after more than a year of political turmoil, insists the charges were trumped up to drive him from office.
The next trial date at Jerusalem district court is set for July 19.
Under Israeli law, a sitting prime minister is only required to resign if convicted of a criminal offence with all appeals exhausted, which in Netanyahu’s case could take several years.
Protesters criticized Israel’s handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic, as the health ministry announced more than 1,400 new cases recorded in the past 24 hours.
Israel had won praise for its early response to the outbreak, but the government has come under criticism amid a resurgence in cases after lockdown measures were lifted.
Thousands also protested in Tel Aviv on Saturday to voice frustration at Netanyahu and his economic policies.
Israel, a country of some nine million people, has recorded more than 41,200 coronavirus cases, including 368 deaths.
The government lifted some restrictions at the end of May, but announced new ones last week, including closing bars, nightclubs and gyms.
Israel’s unemployment has jumped from 3.4 percent in February to 27 percent in April, before falling slightly in May to 23.5 percent.