Anti-Netanyahu protests continue as new elections loom

Police arrest three protesters in Jerusalem, Knesset to hold first vote on election date Monday.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Several thousand Israelis protested against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in several locations around the country, with police arresting three demonstrators at the largest gathering in Jerusalem, Ynet reported Sunday.

It marked the 25th straight week of Saturday night protests at the entrance to Balfour Street in central Jerusalem, where police lines keep protesters about 100 meters from Netanyahu’s official residence. Some 2,000 demonstrators gathered, demanding Netanyahu step down over corruption allegations.

Others protested against the prime minister on bridges and at intersections across the country. Three demonstrators in Jerusalem were arrested and later released after blocking the light rail line and disturbing the peace.

Another protest took place in the city of Rosh HaAyin outside the home of Defense Minister and alternate prime minister Benny Gantz, demanding he not block national elections.

On Dec. 2, Gantz and his Blue and White party voted in favor of a bill to dissolve the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, and go to elections. That bill comes up for first reading on Monday and could pass final reading on Wednesday, which would send Israelis to the polls on Tuesday, March 16 – the fourth election in the past two years.

Gantz said the only way to avoid the election is if Netanyahu approves the 2021 national budget, a step the prime minister has avoided in an apparent move to go to an election instead of allowing Gantz to take over as prime minister next November under their unity coalition government agreement.

However, a wrench was thrown into the works last week when veteran Likud Knesset member Gideon Saar announced he was quitting the party and would run against Netanyahu. Public opinion polls after his move showed that if elections had been held immediately Saar would have won up to 15 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, and Netanyahu and his Likud Party could be ousted.

Gantz tweeted Friday that Israel will be going to elections because of Netanyahu’s personal and political considerations.

“At the end of this fourth election, I know Netanyahu will not remain prime minister of Israel – and he needs to know it, too,” Gantz said.

Both Likud and Blue and White denied reports of compromise proposals being worked on over the weekend.