Thousands join anti-Netanyahu protest ahead of general polls

Israel is holding its fourth election tomorrow in less than 2 years

March 21, 2021 10:41 pm | Updated 11:35 pm IST - Jerusalem

Thousands of Israelis rallied outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Jerusalem residence on Saturday to protest his policies and premiership, days before a general election that could see the long-standing leader removed from power.

Mr. Netanyahu, 71, in power for a record 12 consecutive years, is hoping to remain in office following Israel’s fourth election in less than two years on March 23.

His detractors accuse him of corruption and say his management of the coronavirus pandemic, including protracted lockdowns, battered the economy and contributed to job losses.

Waving flags, including the Israeli blue-and-white, protesters led by a young man with a bullhorn chanted “Bibi go home”, using the Prime Minister’s nickname.

They also held up signs carrying a broad range of messages, from the need for a leadership “revolution” to mistrust in the police.

“We came to protest against a dictator,” Anat Gourelle, a 60-year-old lawyer from Tel Aviv, said of Mr. Netanyahu.

“It is outrageous what is going on in Israel. It is unthinkable that somebody is using his power to steal from his own people,” she said.

Mr. Netanyahu was the first Israeli premier to be indicted in office for corruption when he was formally charged last year in three cases over claims he accepted improper gifts and sought to trade regulatory favour with media moguls in exchange for positive coverage.

The combative premier denies wrongdoing.

First launched in June last year, the vocal and colourful demonstrations against Netanyahu have gained momentum over the past 38 weeks, with Saturday night’s rally — the 39th — the largest in recent months.

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