- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing immense criticism.
- Anti-Netanyahu protesters decry his handling of the coronavirus crisis.
- Netanyahu’s popularity is waning.
Israeli police are using water cannons to disperse hundreds of protesters outside the residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Many are demonstrating against the prime minister’s leadership due to the bribery and breach of trust charges that he faces, and his poor handling of the coronavirus crisis.
The unrelenting demurrals, which have intensified in the past two weeks, are likely to undermine his popularity. Many of the protesters see the move to stay in power while facing criminal charges as a strategy to undercut the nation’s justice system.
Netanyahu was recently barred from appointing judicial and law enforcement officers. The prohibition, which was relayed to him by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, was meant to prevent him from interfering in the corruption investigations.
According to the report published by the Times of Israel, Mandelblit said:
“Netanyahu must not be involved in the nomination of judges or the police commissioner, as well as any other appointments that would meddle with the work of the state prosecution, the Attorney General’s Office, or police investigations.”
The latest pronouncement by the chief legal advisor is set to worsen his relationship with Netanyahu. The prime minister has repeatedly accused the attorney general of legislating rules aimed at undermining his leadership and removing him from power.
Protests Intensified Following the Arrest of a Former Army General
The arrest and subsequent release of a retired army commander, General Amir Haskel, a few weeks ago, poured gasoline on the fire, and led to him becoming the face of the protests. He was detained alongside two other men for holding protests outside Netanyahu’s home. Haskel offered the following statement upon his release.
“If this arrest has set a fire, it was a price worth paying. I hope many people understand Israel needs change . . . Netanyahu has made the left the enemy of the people. It’s the greatest damage Netanyahu has brought upon this nation. If he wants to prevent a blow-up, he should get up and leave.”
The police had sought to have Haskel and his co-accused barred from protesting in Jerusalem for 15 days.
The men were, however, released without conditions after Judge Orna Sandler-Eitan voided their incarceration. Defense Minister and alternate Israeli Prime Minister Benny Gantz issued a statement soon after the ruling.
He underlined that it is the right of every Israeli citizen to protest, and the police should be aware of this. Netanyahu denied influencing the police to stop protests against him.
Netanyahu is Facing Increasing Criticism
Political analysts have, in the past month, speculated that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might break the current political arrangement with Gantz by triggering an election. The sentiments have, however, died down following the escalation of demonstrations against him.
Thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets in the past week to protest Netanyahu’s failure to enact policies that protect livelihoods during these harsh economic times. The COVID-19 pandemic has battered the economy and left many without jobs.
The current unemployment rate in Israel is at 21 percent. This is a sharp increase from 3.86 percent last year.
Many Israelis are in distress and blame the government for failing to come up with a compensation plan for the hundreds of thousands of employees that are out of work due to coronavirus restrictions.