Public opposition to continued rule by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been undeterred by tightened coronavirus restrictions barring demonstrations.
The Israeli Knesset ratified a government-backed edict two days ago on 30 September after an all-night debate, that comes as part of the country’s second national lockdown aimed at curbing COVID-19 that went into effect just 12 days earlier. The new legislation, which was formally approved by the Knesset Committee on Constitution, Law and Justice Committee today, limits all public demonstrations to just 20 people who can only attend protests within one kilometer (0.6 miles) of their homes.
An estimated three thousand Israelis took to the streets of Tel Aviv last night, where they charged that the new measure is really a government attempt to use lockdown measures to suppress their freedom of expression to criticize Netanyahu. Mass protests have been ongoing throughout the country against the Premier’s remaining in office while under indictment on corruption charges, as well as his inability to properly contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I came here to protest against the government,” 18-year-old demonstrator Sapphire Pozailov told Reuters. She also alleged that use of the coronavirus “as an excuse to make us silent” would fail, while insisting the protestors were wearing personal protection equipment and maintaining proper social distancing.
A Tel Aviv resident was arrested today on suspicion that he deliberately rammed his car into a group of demonstrators before fleeing the scene. In reports disputed by paramedics, several people claimed to have been lightly-injured during the incident. Video circulating on social media showed one woman falling to the ground after being struck by the vehicle.
12 protesters in Tel Aviv were arrested for disorderly conduct.
The Ynet media publication cited the Black Flags anti-Netanyahu protest group as saying that hundreds of other small, scattered protests calling for the Prime Minister’s resignation took place in several other cities across Israel, in compliance with coronavirus restrictions.
Netanyahu has maintained innocence of any wrongdoing regarding his pending trial in three separate criminal cases, and says he has handled the health crisis relatively well. He underscored that he has no political motive in seeking to prevent protests.