Israeli police officers scuffle with demonstrators during a protest against Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside Prime Minister official residence in Jerusalem on July 14, 2020 (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Thirty-four people were arrested Tuesday night while protesting in Jerusalem outside Prime Minister Netanyahu’s official residence.

Protests outside Netanyahu’s residence have become a weekly occurrence, with police increasingly taking harsher measures against demonstrators. Last month, they arrested a retired Israeli air force general, setting off an uproar.

The protests have since drawn a younger crowd and have grown more defiant. In the past week, thousands of Israelis have participated in some of the largest demonstrations in nearly a decade against the longtime prime minister. Netanyahu has come under growing criticism for holding office while on trial for corruption, pushing for seemingly anti-democratic measures under the guise of combating the coronavirus and mismanaging the country’s deepening economic crisis.

On Tuesday night, a large coalition of protest groups combined to march through the streets of Jerusalem from Netanyahu’s official residence to the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. They beat drums, banged on pots and blared on trumpets while calling for the prime minister’s resignation and holding banners reading, “the Israeli spring is here.”

Two different protests took place on Balfour street. One group demanded the resignation of Netanyahu over charges of breach of trust, accepting bribes and fraud. The other one, organized by restaurant owners, rallied against the government’s recent attempts to limit activities in restaurants in an attempt to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Restaurant owners demanded that the government devise a plan for properly compensating the businesses that suffered economic losses during the coronavirus pandemic.

Restaurant owners prepared various dishes to hand out “to any hungry person who will come.” The gesture was meant to “emphasize the importance of maintaining solidarity and being empathetic to others even in hard times like this, just as [they] would expect to be treated by the government,” they said. The “battered industry has not been getting clear answers since the crisis began,” they added.

Israel received praise for its early handling of the coronavirus crisis and imposing tight movement restrictions. But since reopening the economy in May, new cases have spiked and unemployment remains over 20%, up from 3.9% before the pandemic.

Some 61 residents from the Rehavia neighborhood, where the Prime Minister’s Official Residence resides, had petitioned the High Court of Justice in a request to prevent the protests which have become a norm in recent weeks.

“Children, elders and adults from all sectors and genders have found themselves in the position of hostages, in a protest that has become in part violent, unrestricted and completely ignoring the coronavirus pandemic,” the petition read.


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