Israelis Protest Coronavirus, Corruption

  • The country's authorities have been criticized for inconsistency in the fight against the coronavirus, and the consequences of the epidemic.
  • The Knesset's Coronavirus Committee convened Sunday morning to discuss the measures.
  • The protests also called for the resignation of the prime minister over a corruption case currently pending in court.

Thousands protested in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Saturday evening to express their opposition to the government’s efforts to fight the coronavirus and overcome the economic consequences of the COVID-19 epidemic in the country. They gathered in front of the Prime Minister’s residence as well as one of the city’s parks.

The first case of COVID-19 in Israel was confirmed on 21 February 2020, when a female citizen tested positive for coronavirus disease 2019 at the Sheba Medical Center after return from quarantine on the Diamond Princess ship in Japan. As of July 17, there have been 50,289 recorded cases, resulting in 409 deaths.

Police in riot gear stormed a rally, removing hundreds of protesters by truck. Attempts to attack police officers were also reported. Many protesters were detained.

Criticism of the Israeli government

The country’s authorities have been criticized for inconsistency in the fight against the coronavirus, and the consequences of the epidemic. At the same time, due to dissatisfaction with this, mass demonstrations have taken place before.

The Israeli government was able to prevent the virus from spreading rapidly at the beginning of the epidemic when a strict quarantine was imposed in the country in mid-May. However, by the end of May, anti-epidemic measures had eased. As a result, the number of new infections began to increase at a record pace.

The authorities again began to impose restrictions on public life. Now, on weekends, there are restrictions on opening shopping centers, shops, markets, museums, and tourist attractions. Restaurants will only be able to offer takeaway food or delivery.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already acknowledged that the government has eased the country’s restrictive measures too soon. In connection with the protests, he also announced the provision of urgent financial assistance to all Israeli citizens. However, the move has also been criticized by experts, who are calling for targeted economic recovery.

Israel Ministry of Health on Restrictions

After a stormy weekend, during which the government withdrew from some of the restrictions it decided on, in an attempt to deal with the increase in the incidence of the virus, the Knesset’s Coronavirus Committee convened Sunday morning to discuss the measures.

Prime Minister Netanyahu clarified that a bill on the matter will be submitted to a committee headed by him for the purpose of a legislative procedure. The Attorney General is holding discussions on the legislation, and the coalition’s goal is to approve the bill on Monday in three readings.

It is currently in full swing— as it was on the last Seder night— from Friday afternoon until Sunday morning.

The committee members received a presentation prepared by the Ministry of Health and touched on a number of issues, including infection in restaurants and gyms, as well as the places where 7,998 patients were infected in a given week examined (between July 10 and 16 of the month).

On 21 November 2019, Netanyahu was officially indicted for breach of trust, accepting bribes and fraud. His trial was scheduled to begin on May 24.

The vast majority of those infected (more than two-thirds) did not undergo epidemiological investigations, due to the severe shortage of researchers. Of those who did, 67% were infected at home, 9.5% in educational institutions, 5.6% in incidents, 4.8 in religious institutions and 4% in recreation.

Corruption Process Against Netanyahu

The protests also called for the resignation of the prime minister over a corruption case currently pending in court. Netanyahu is accused of bribery, fraud, and abuse of trust. The politician rejects all accusations against him and calls them politically motivated “witch hunts.”

The trial of Netanyahu’s corruption case, which was suspended for two months due to the COVID-19 epidemic, continued on Sunday. Prosecutors are expected to require the court to call witnesses, while lawyers will work to delay the process as long as possible.

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Benedict Kasigara

I have been working as a freelance editor/writer since 2006. My specialist subject is film and television having worked for over 10 years from 2005 during which time I was the editor of the BFI Film and Television.

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