Thousands of Israelis demonstrate to 'let democracy win'

Thousands of Israelis demonstrated Sunday in Tel Aviv to warn against what they said was a threat to democracy from ongoing coalition talks between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his former rival Benny Gantz.

Some 2,000 protesters, according to media estimates, followed a call launched on Facebook by the "Black Flag" movement which condemns Netanyahu's continuing rule.

Israel's parliament was tasked with forming a government on Thursday after speaker Gantz and Netanyahu missed a deadline to seal an alliance, but negotiations between the sides were ongoing.

Israel's deeply divided 120-member parliament has no clear path towards a stable governing coalition, so the move risks prolonging the country's worst-ever political crisis. Gantz and Netanyahu could still agree on an emergency unity government to help Israel confront the COVID-19 pandemic, prospect the protesters spoke out against.

Wearing protection masks and mostly dressed in black, the protesters observed social distancing rules in force to fight the coronavirus.

"Let democracy win", said one placard, while some protesters had written "Minister of Crime" on their masks, an apparent reference to Netanyahu's upcoming trial for corruption.

Many waved black flags as a symbol for threats against Israel's democracy.

Netanyahu, who denies any wrongdoing, is under criminal indictment in three corruption cases. He is also negotiating a power-sharing deal with his rival Benny Gantz to form a coalition government that would end a year of political deadlock after three inconclusive elections.

Protesters called on Gantz’s Blue and White party not to join in a coalition led by a premier charged with corruption. Gantz has campaigned for clean government, but said that the coronavirus crisis has forced him to go back on his election pledge.

Israel has reported more than 13,000 coronavirus cases and 172 deaths. A partial lockdown has confined most Israelis to their homes, forced businesses to close and sent unemployment to about 26%. Some restrictions have been eased since Saturday.

"You don't fight corruption from within," said Yair Lapid, the new opposition leader, of his former ally Gantz. "If you're inside, you're part of it." Democracies in 21st Century died because "good people are silent and weak people surrender", Lapid said.

Similar articles