Israel: vast anti-Netanyahu protest three days before elections

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JERUSALEM | “Get out!” Thousands of Israelis demonstrated, Saturday night in Jerusalem, their opposition to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in first place in the polls within three days of new legislative elections crucial to his political survival.

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Since the end of June, demonstrators have been meeting every Saturday evening, after the weekly Sabbath break, in Jerusalem and across Israel for rallies against the head of government, charged with corruption in three cases and criticized for the aid tried. insufficient for workers who lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic.

Israel: vast anti-Netanyahu protest three days before elections

But this 39e Saturday’s protest outside Mr. Netanyahu’s official residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem has special significance just days before polling stations open on Tuesday morning for Israel’s fourth parliamentary elections in two years.

“This is the first time that we are coming to the protests and we hope that they will have an impact on those who do not yet know who to vote for,” said Hagit, a young mother in Jerusalem.

The sound of the little vuvuzelas mingled with the vibrant bass of a hip-hop group and Israeli flags mingled with the “get out!” Posters. or “go vote”.

Israel: vast anti-Netanyahu protest three days before elections

“Question of life or death”

Simon, slightly balding head and salt and pepper hair, made the road from the Tel Aviv metropolis for this last big gathering before the legislative elections.

“I come here every Saturday. At first there were 5,000 to 10,000, then the coronavirus took over and the number of protesters decreased. But tonight, we will be even more than at the beginning, ”he assures us as dozens and dozens of buses of protesters converged on Jerusalem.

Israel: vast anti-Netanyahu protest three days before elections

“People are not going to go from right to left [ce soir], but this event is important because it says: go vote, do not remain silent ”, he adds at the side of Orly, a friend accustomed like him to the demonstrations against the Prime Minister.

“I have been protesting against him for five years. And there, it is the elections and it is a question of life or death for us ”, she launches through her sanitary mask on which is written in red“ crime minister ”, to designate Mr. Netanyahu.

Israel: vast anti-Netanyahu protest three days before elections

The last three ballots had put Mr. Netanyahu and his rival, ex-army chief and centrist Benny Gantz, neck and neck. After the third legislative elections, Mr. Gantz had decided to ally himself with his political enemy to form a government of “unity and emergency” in the face of the health crisis, which only survived a few months.

Electoral debate?

Since then, Mr. Gantz’s political star has faded, and Mr. Netanyahu, 71, including the last twelve in power, mainly faces the centrist Yaïr Lapid, the rebellious Gideon Saar, who left the Prime Minister’s Likud to form his own party, and the tenor of the radical right Naftali Bennett.

However, the latest polls, published Friday by the Israeli press, credit the Likud with about thirty seats, out of the 120 in the Knesset (Parliament). The training of Mr. Lapid would obtain nearly twenty and those of MM. Bennett and Saar about ten each.

Israel: vast anti-Netanyahu protest three days before elections

If Benjamin Netantayu is still at the top of the polls, playing the card of the success of the anti-coronavirus vaccination campaign – nearly 50% of the nine million Israelis have received the two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine -, he could however be missing support to form a government.

With its allies on the religious right, Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud would win around fifty seats, according to the latest barometers, a score below the threshold required (61 deputies) to form a government. Against him, Mr. Lapid and the anti-Netanyahu parties do not reach the majority threshold either.

Israel: vast anti-Netanyahu protest three days before elections

In this electoral campaign carried out partly under confinement, before an easing of health measures in recent weeks, the parties did not hold large meetings. And if the candidates multiplied the interviews on the radio and the statements on social networks, no televised debate took place.

In an attempt to end the duel, Mr. Lapid launched on Saturday evening an invitation to debate the Prime Minister: “The Israeli public deserves a debate, deserves answers. […], the studios are ready, the moderators are ready and our two podiums are waiting ”.

After hours of mouthing, demonstrators cleaned up the Place de France, the heart of the protest, picking up the leaflets littering the asphalt before slipping, in a few days, their ballot in the ballot box.