Israelis restart Netanyahu protests amid third virus lockdown

Protesters rally outside PM’s residence in Jerusalem, call on long-serving leader to step down amid corruption allegations.

Israelis lift placards and flags as they take part in a demonstration against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the entrance to the city in Jerusalem [Menahem Kahana/AFP]

Thousands of people demonstrated against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling on the long-serving leader to resign over corruption charges against him and his alleged mishandling of the coronavirus crisis.

Protesters early on Sunday held signs reading “Go,” and “Bibi, let my people go”, referring to Netanyahu by his nickname.

The protest in a Jerusalem square near Netanyahu’s official residence came as Israel is in the middle of its third national lockdown, which was recently tightened to shutter schools, and as the country presses forward with a world-leading vaccination drive.

Netanyahu’s trial was set to resume this week but was postponed indefinitely amid the tighter restrictions.

The 71-year-old leader has been indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust connected to three long-running investigations. He has denied any wrongdoing and says he is the victim of a “witch hunt” by hostile media, law enforcement and judicial officials.

He has in recent months faced near-weekly protests calling on him to resign over the allegations and the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.

‘One last big effort’

Israel has seen a recent surge in cases despite unleashing one of the world’s fastest vaccination campaigns.

The country has given the first of two vaccine doses to nearly 20 percent of its population, and Netanyahu said Thursday it has secured enough vaccines to inoculate the whole adult population by the end of March.

Netanyahu has placed the vaccination drive at the centre of his campaign for re-election that month, when Israel will hold its fourth nationwide vote in less than two years.

He has called the third national lockdown “one last big effort” to halt transmission by adhering to the tightened restrictions.

Source: News Agencies