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Israel Protesting Amidst Highest Covid-19 Infection Rate Globally

By Ben Levy

Staff Writer

Global Outlook News

Protesters in Israe

Credit: Haaretz

l took to the streets over the weekend in a continuing series of demonstrations demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Descending on Balfour Street in Jerusalem in front of the official prime minister’s residence, those gathered waved signs emblazoned with the slogan ‘crime minister’ in response to allegations of corruption against Netanyahu. The prime minister is currently under investigation by Israeli authorities and facing trial for fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes.

The protestors also criticize the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Israel has seen a continued dramatic rise in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, posting one of the highest morbidity rates in the world.

Many demonstrators also decried the government’s response to skyrocketing unemployment in Israel due to economic changes and restrictions brought on by the coronavirus.

Data released by Johns Hopkins University shows Israel with more than 129,000 coronavirus cases and more than 1,000 COVID-19 deaths. With a population of 9 million, the country is in the throes of an economic recession with accompanying unemployment rates spiking above 20%.

The weekend demonstrations have continued for more than a month. The Balfour movement is just a part of the nationwide rallies seen on highway overpasses and in squares across the cities of Israel.

Prime Minister Netanyahu denies all the allegations against him and instead has shifted focus to his recent accomplishment in restoring diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

However, a recent poll has revealed that the signing of the agreement between Israel and the UAE has had no impact on the optimism of Israelis for the future of democracy and government in their country.

The Israeli Voice Index for August 2020 released this week shows that 52.4% of Israelis are pessimistic about the future of democratic governance. Additionally, 68.4% believe the days of the current government are numbered, anticipating a fourth round of elections in less than two years after the end of the period specified by the compromise that was recently reached between Likud, Netanyahu’s party, and Blue and White, led by his rival turned coalition member Benny Gantz.

He has characterized the protesters, dismissing them as "leftists" and "anarchists." Netanyahu has also accused the Israeli media of giving the protesters a wider platform and encouraging the movement against him.

The same poll showed that while most of the protesters have been left-leaning politically, with 30% of participants identifying with the left and 11% with the right, both young and old protesters from the country’s Jewish and Arab communities have participated at similar rates.

Police have intervened in the protests on Balfour Street several times to clear protesters, including forcibly vacating a temporary camp set up nearby. Protestors and others have criticized the use of force and violence by the police in response to the demonstrations.

According to the Israeli Voice Index, the amount of those who think that next year will be worse than this one is much higher than it was in the past and higher than the rate of those who think the coming year will be better than or as good as the one that is now ending.

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