Israel: Benjamin Netanyahu protests put political divides back on show

Israel’s deep political divisions are back on public display.

They were put to one side for a while, as shock and national unity followed the 7 October attacks by Hamas – but six months later, thousands of protesters are once again on Israel’s streets. The war has turbocharged their determination to unseat Israel’s longest-serving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In Jerusalem, police used skunk water – a foul-smelling substance fired from water cannon – to clear protesters who had blocked the Begin Boulevard, the city’s major north-south highway. Well-worn slogans demanding his resignation and early elections were amplified by newer ones calling for an immediate deal to free the 134 Israeli hostages still held in Gaza, an unknown number of them already dead. The big fear of their families and friends, as well as the protesters, is that many more will die the longer the war drags on without a deal.

On Sunday evening, as thousands packed the broad avenues around the Israeli parliament, Katia Amorza, who has a son serving in the Israeli army in Gaza, put down her megaphone for a moment. “Since eight this morning, I’m here. And now I’m telling Netanyahu that I would be glad to pay one-way ticket, first class, for him to go out and not come back any more.”

Benjamin Netanyahu used to say he was the only one who could keep his country safe. Many Israelis believed him. He said that he could manage the Palestinians, settle Jews on the occupied land they want for a state, without offering the concessions and making the sacrifices necessary for a peace deal.

All that changed on 7 October last year when Hamas stormed through the border wire. Many Israelis hold him responsible for the security lapses that allowed Hamas to attack Israel with such devastating effect. Unlike his security chiefs, who rapidly issued statements admitting they had made mistakes, Mr Netanyahu has never admitted any responsibility.

That infuriates the thousands who blocked streets in Jerusalem on Sunday evening.


Article URL :