Corona crisis fuels anti-Netanyahu protests throughout country

Public dissatisfaction with the prime minister’s handling of the coronavirus crisis has caused more politically moderate Israelis to join as well.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Israel’s anarchist-led Black Flag movement, essentially a group seeking to drive Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from power, may remain the hard kernel of Israel’s growing protests, but it can no longer be said that the protests are made up only of extremists.

Public dissatisfaction with the prime minister’s handling of the coronavirus crisis has caused more politically moderate Israelis to join as well.

Nimrod Gross, 34, attended his first-ever protest in Jerusalem. His image of getting doused with a water cannon while carrying an Israeli flag has become emblematic of the demonstrations, the Associated Press reports on Monday. The newswire described him as “a centrist who shunned politics.”

“I feel like I grew up on this dream that is blowing up in our faces,” Gross told AP. “You do everything that society demands of you, and then suddenly you are illegitimate.”

Protests outside the prime minister’s official Jerusalem residence started in earnest in late June and have grown in strength since then. They were matched with parallel protests in Tel Aviv. Last Saturday evening, however, for the first time they spread to other parts of the country, including in front of Netanyahu’s private residence in Caesarea.

Read  WATCH: Israeli security expert supports Netanyahu's public approach to Iran threat

The protests are part street fair, part circus (yes, there was even a fire-breather) and part anarchic violence. During the early part of the Jerusalem protests – the police estimate 5,000 showed up last Saturday – there is food, music and dancing.

Then, at 11:00 p.m., when the crowd is by law required to disperse, a core of anarchists takes over and challenges the police’s authority. In this, the Israeli protests resemble the unrest in the U.S., where a smaller group of violence-seekers hide within the largest protests.

An important difference is that the protesters in Israel don’t have as large a pool of disaffected people to draw upon. They also lack a core issue. Protesters when asked by reporters to explain why they’re there often have trouble articulating the reason.

If there is a central theme, it remains the corruption charges against the prime minister. Of the placards held up at the protests, “crime minister” is the most prominent.

However, the majority of Israelis still favor Netanyahu as their leader. In three consecutive elections, the opposition has been unable to unseat him, showing that the average Israeli doesn’t think much of the corruption charges.

Even in a recent poll revealing that the public’s view of his handling of the crisis has spiraled downwards, a majority still consider him the most fit to lead the country.

Read  5,000 former Israeli officers tell Biden: Iran nuclear deal ‘catastrophic'

Nevertheless, the government clearly sees the protests as a threat and is urging the police to rein them in.

Minister of Public Security Minister Amir Ohana told the police to get tougher against the protesters in a taped conversation leaked on Sunday, first reported on Channel 11.

“We cannot continue with this turmoil, we cannot continue with this anarchism,” Ohana said to Jerusalem District Police Commander Doron Yedid.

“There’s a difference between a protest and these incidents that we have been seeing over the past two months and  in recent weeks,” Ohana continued. “I don’t understand why we are not banning this thing.”

The Black Flag organizers immediately pounced on the report, saying, “The plot of the Minister of Police of the home of the Netanyahu family to thwart the civil protest has been exposed.”