Israelis demonstrate against Netanyahu-Gantz unity government

Thousands protested against Benjamin Netanyahu continuing on as the Israeli prime minister while corruption cases against him are pending. Protesters accused the two sides of trying to “crush democracy”

April 27, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Israel protest against unity government
An Israeli protester holds a placard at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, on Saturday. (Photo: AFP)

Thousands of Israelis gathered at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on April 25, Saturday, to protest the unity deal reached last week between Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his former rival, ex-army chief Benny Gantz, to form the next Israeli government. The protest, the second within a week, was in opposition to Netanyahu staying on as the Israeli prime minister for another year and a half. According to the three-year agreement, Gantz will serve as defense minister under Netanyahu for the first one and a half years before taking over as prime minister in October 2021 for an equal period of time. Fresh elections will be held afterwards.

The protesters on Saturday, numbering around 2,000, wore face masks and maintained physical distancing as per the rules imposed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Dressed in black and raising black flags as well as the Israeli national flag, they shouted slogans against ‘corruption’ and for ‘safeguarding democracy’. They also held up signs reading ‘the people against the government’, ‘let democracy win’, etc. 

The protesters’ main opposition to Netanyahu continuing as prime minister lies with the fact that he faces trial in multiple corruption cases on serious charges, including bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Netanyahu’s trial was to begin in March but was later postponed for May 24 due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

As prime minister, Netanyahu will get the authority to appoint judges and other legal officials, which, according to the protesters, would enable him to influence the outcome of the trials. The agreement reached between Netanyahu and Gantz states that both parties will have to approve important judicial appointments, including for the post of the attorney general and state prosecutor. This would effectively give Netanyahu veto power to decide who in the justice system oversees his case trials. 

Protesters opposed the unity deal, accusing the two sides of trying to “crush democracy”. They view the deal as a means for Netanyahu to escape the legal consequences of his alleged crimes as prime minister of Israel.

Netanyahu’s Likud party and Gantz’ Blue and White alliance reached an agreement to form a joint government last Monday after weeks of political deadlock. The two sides claimed to have come together to provide a stable government at a time when Israel is facing a ‘national emergency’ in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic.