Will Israel’s week of resistance make a difference?

Groups and politicians in Israel have launched a campaign for early elections and a deal to release the captives.

a person walks through water sprayed in the street
A protester walks through a haze of water as Israeli police fire water cannon at an antigovernment demonstration in West Jerusalem [Saeed Qaq/Anadolu Images]

Several antigovernment groups in Israel have launched a week of resistance against the government.

They are calling for a deal to release the captives taken by Hamas-led groups that attacked Israel on October 7.

They are also angry at how the current government is performing and are demanding early elections to choose a new government.

Here’s a breakdown of what’s going on:

What do they plan to do?

The first of a series of protests took place in Tel Aviv on Sunday, with thousands of Israelis in the streets.

They blocked roads and surrounded the defence headquarters and Democracy Square – a main Tel Aviv intersection – as well as Hostages Square, a plaza about 500 metres (550 yards) away as the crow flies and made famous by numerous protests there calling for the return of the captives.

Images on Israeli television showed demonstrators lighting fires in the middle of highways and marching towards the residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before being stopped by police.

Protesters gather during an anti-government demonstration outside the defence ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv on June 15, 2024, calling for early elections, the return of the hostages held captive in the Gaza Stip since the October 7 attacks, and an end to the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)
Antigovernment demonstrators outside the Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv on June 15, 2024, call for early elections, the return of captives held in Gaza and an end to the assault on it [Jack Guez/AFP]

Who’s involved?

A variety of antigovernment groups that Israeli channel N12 News said included Brothers in Arms, Building an Alternative, an anti-Netanyahu collective and the Pink Front held the protests in Tel Aviv on Sunday.

Joining them was a former member of the war cabinet, retired general Benny Gantz.

At least one former captive was also involved. Andrey Kozlov addressed crowds at Hostage Square, saying: “For the hostages who are still in Gaza, there is one decision, only one. It is a deal between Israel and Hamas.”

At Democracy Square, formerly part of Kaplan Street, Ayala Metzger, the daughter-in-law of Yoram Metzger, who died while in captivity in Gaza, called for demonstrators to block highways and streets and protest outside the residences of government ministers as part of the campaign.

Will it work?

Netanyahu has so far shown little appetite to face the electorate.

Since the resignation of Gantz and another member of his National Unity Party from the war cabinet, Netanyahu has dissolved the war cabinet and remains seemingly reliant on the support of the extreme right and ultra-Orthodox members of his right-wing coalition government to sustain his rule.

Among both Israelis and Israel’s allies, not least those in Washington, DC, there is a growing suspicion that Netanyahu’s strategy may be motivated by a desire to avoid corruption convictions. He was charged in 2019 and is standing trial although the proceedings have slowed during the war on Gaza.

Even if elections are called, any vote may still be some way off, according to Eyal Lurie-Pardes of the Middle East Institute.

He feels that if Netanyahu can hold his coalition together until the summer recess, electoral laws would mean an election could not happen until March.

This month, US President Joe Biden told Time magazine that there was “every reason” to believe Netanyahu was prolonging the war for his political benefit.

Speaking at a news conference on Saturday, Israeli army spokesperson Daniel Hagari said the Israeli army would be unlikely to repeat the June 8 assault on Gaza’s Nuseirat refugee camp in which 276 Palestinians were massacred and more than 698 as the Israeli army tried to free four captives, including Kozlov.

Andrey Kozlov, 27, left, and Almog Meir Jan, 21, two of four hostages who were kidnapped in a Hamas-led attack on Oct. 7, 2023, and were just rescued, arrive by helicopter to the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Israel, Saturday, June 8
Andrey Kozlov, in a white shirt, and Almog Meir Jan, second from right, arrive by helicopter at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, on June 8, 2024, after being extracted from Gaza [Tomer Appelbaum/AP]

Does this mean the Israeli public is turning against the war?

Not so much.

Multiple polls show that while the anti-war camp is strong in Israel, so is the pro-war camp.

However, anger over the fate of the captives and concern that Israel may not be able to meet all its war aims is chipping away at support for the war.

“I believe the Israeli public’s support for the war might be flagging, but probably not for the reasons you’re thinking,” Shai Parnes, spokesperson for the Israeli rights group B’Tselem told Al Jazeera previously.

Parnes spoke of the public concern over the emotional and financial cost on young Israelis performing national service, the interruptions to daily life and the emotional toll of the missing captives, saying those are what preys upon Israeli minds, rather than the over 37,000 people killed in Gaza.

Source: Al Jazeera