Israelis protest against PM Netanyahu, govt.’s COVID-19 crisis response


Pressure builds on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and outstanding corruption charges. Protests against Israel’s leader mounts with demonstrators rallying outside his residence on Saturday (Jul 18) have to be dispersed with water cannons by Israeli police.

With high unemployment, the recent sharp rise in COVID-19 cases and reimposed coronavirus curbs have propelled Israelis to take to the streets in almost daily demonstrations against the government.

Public anger has been compounded by corruption alleged against Netanyahu, who went on trial in May for bribery, fraud and breach of trust – charges he said are plot by his political opponents to remove him from office.

In Jerusalem, hundreds gathered outside the prime minister’s residence and then marched through the streets, calling for Netanyahu’s resignation as police used water cannons to disperse the crowds. At least two people were arrested, police said.

In Tel Aviv, Israel’s commercial hub, thousands gathered at a rally by the beach, demanding better state aid to businesses hurt by coronavirus restrictions and to people who have lost jobs or have been put on unpaid leave. Unemployment presently stands at 21 per cent.

Israel reopened schools and many businesses in May, lifting restrictions that had flattened an infection curve after a partial lockdown imposed in March.

But with the infection rate rising sharply in the past few weeks, many public health experts said the government had moved too fast while neglecting to take the necessary epidemiological steps to control the pandemic once the economy reopened.

A poll by the nonpartisan Israel Democracy Institute on Tuesday found only 29.5per cent of the public trust Netanyahu’s handling of the crisis.

Netanyahu has announced numerous economic aid packages, some of which have been slow to come through while others have drawn criticism for being ineffective.

Israel, with a population of 9 million, has reported almost 50,000 coronavirus cases and 400 deaths. (Source: CNA)