Israelis continue protests over Netanyahu alleged corruption, Covid-19 response
By MEE and agencies
Story Code : 886000
Thousands of Israelis rallied outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence on Saturday, protesting against his alleged corruption and his government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Calling for his resignation, they blew whistles and and waved signs and flags at what has become a weekly demonstration in Jerusalem, attended by around 10,000 people according to Israeli media estimates, while smaller protests have been held in other Israeli cities.
A spike in Covid-19 cases over the summer has contributed to the build-up of protests, with almost two-thirds of Israelis not trusting Netanyahu's management of the coronavirus crisis, according to a survey published in August by the Israel Democracy Institute.
The country has reported almost 150,000 cases and more than 1,000 deaths, and is also in recession as a result of the pandemic, with unemployment above 20 percent.
Some critics of Netanyahu say he is preoccupied with his corruption trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
The 70-year-old was indicted in November in cases involving gifts from wealthy friends and for allegedly seeking regulatory favours for media tycoons in return for favourable coverage. His trial opened in May and is set to resume in January.
Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing. He has described his trial as a leftist political witch-hunt aimed at unseating a popular right-wing leader.
He has also condemned the demonstrations against him, accusing protesters of trampling democracy.
A diplomatic breakthrough with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in August - followed by Bahrain on Friday - has largely been welcomed by Israelis but has been overshadowed by the economic fears stirred by the coronavirus crisis.
After a media backlash, Netanyahu scrapped plans to travel on an executive jet with his family to Washington on Sunday for a signing ceremony of the Israel-UAE accord, separately from an airliner chartered for the Israeli delegation.
Some media commentators criticised the travel plans as extravagant at a time when Israelis are heading into their second lockdown since March.
The prime minister's aides said the plans to travel separately had been a health precaution.
But Netanyahu's office said on Friday he would travel with the rest of the delegation.