Protesters Continue to Call for Netanyahu’s Resignation; Nationwide Coronavirus Lockdown Imminent; Likud, Netanyahu Demand Corruption Case be Settled After Revelations that Police Conflict of Interest Cover-Up

Tens of thousands of Israelis protested outside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s home on September 5, 2020, demanding his resignation. The protests have gone on for months. Protesters blame Netanyahu for the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, massive job losses, and believe he should step down while on trial on corruption charges. Reported by The Guardian. Read more… On Friday, September 11, thousands more protesters marched in central Jerusalem and then rallied outside the prime minister’s home. Although protests have been ongoing for months, this is the first-time police have allowed protesters to march in Jerusalem to reach Netanyahu’s residence. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Meanwhile Israel continues to face problems from the coronavirus. By Friday, September 11, 2020, Covid-19 cases surpassed 4,000 reported new cases for the second day in a row. Nearly 500 of those cases were persons in serious condition. Israel currently has 33,920 active cases, and 146,542 Israelis have contracted the virus since the pandemic began. Deaths did not increase, remaining steady at 1,077. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… On September 11, Israeli ministers voted to impose a nationwide lockdown on Israel. The lockdown was reported to be starting mid-week. After the two-week lockdown, schools would remain closed for another two-weeks. However, other specifics of the deal had yet to be finalized. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Anger over the coming lockdown manifested itself during protests in front of Netanyahu’s home. One woman repeatedly yelled into a megaphone, “Israel, Israel won’t shut down.” Many see the current high infection rate, after the virus appeared to be defeated in May, as a symptom of the government’s failure to control the spread of the virus. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… On Sunday, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein took a hardline on the lockdown, telling ministers that he will not introduce an alternative plan if they reject his proposal for a multi-stage lockdown. That lockdown will see extensive restrictions during the upcoming holidays. According to leaks from the weekly cabinet meeting, Edelstein told ministers, “There is no choice but to impose a lockdown… This is a difficult day for the country. But there is no other choice but this proposal.” Edelstein blamed a lack of “aggressive, effective and unforgiving enforcement” of existing restrictions as one of the reasons behind the broader lockdown. “Therefore, I would like to be clear — with the exception of various cosmetic changes, I will not permit negotiations over the plan,” Edelstein told ministers. “I am saying this clearly at the start of the discussion: if the plan is not accepted, I will pull it and I won’t bring forth an alternative plan. The coronavirus is not a political issue and not a matter of populism. It’s a matter of life and death.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… However, a two-week lockdown may not be enough. According to the Coronavirus National Information and Knowledge Center, which operates under the IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate, at least three months will be needed to bring infections down to 400 cases a day. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… In the days leading up to the government’s decision to impose a lockdown, small businesses and self-employed workers threatened to keep their businesses open unless the government promised financial compensation. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… In a Zoom conference between Edelstein, coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu, and others, hospital chiefs said their staffs were near collapse under the strain of rising numbers of sick. One unnamed director reportedly said, “There’s no alternative to a lockdown in two-three weeks.” Reported by The Times of Israel Read more… However, an advisor to Israel’s coronavirus czar, Prof. Ronni Gamzu, says the lockdown may be useless if Israel doesn’t correct mistakes from the last lockdown and map out a clear exit strategy. Prof. Arnon Afek, deputy director of Sheba Medical Center, warned, “If you don’t plan the exit from restriction measures, from the lockdown, then it’s useless, because you will find yourself with another rise [in infections] and then you will have to do another lockdown, and it will not end; and you will end up with a very poor country, which you do not want.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

The political war over Netanyahu’s indictment on corruption charges exploded this week after a news report revealed that law enforcement allegedly covered up conflicts of interest in the Netanyahu corruption investigation. According to the report, senior law enforcement officials filed a complaint with the state comptroller alleging that senior police officers and the state prosecutor engaged in a wide-spread coverup to avoid derailing the investigation into alleged corruption by the prime minister. Netanyahu called the news report “shocking” and said it proved the corruption cases against him were politically motivated. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… In the wake of the revelation, MK Miki Zohar, a close ally of Netanyahu, formally asked that the charges against the prime minister be dropped. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Earlier in the week, Netanyahu lashed out at Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, the state prosecutor, and the police, questioning the conduct of law enforcement after news report broke. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… And Likud MKs threatened to ‘tear down’ the Justice Ministry if Mandelblit tried to force Netanyahu to resign. MK Uzi Dayan told members of the Likud that the party needed to demand that Mandelblit “end his time in office” and that the party needed to stick to its demands even if it brought down the current government. The Blue and White party, a member of the governing coalition, panned Dayan’s comments and vowed to protect justice officials. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… In the Knesset, lawmakers also rejected three bills that aimed to prevent Netanyahu from serving as Israel’s president once he does leave office. Most Blue and White lawmakers were absent during the voting. One bill would have prevented anyone under indictment from serving as president; another bill would have barred from the post anyone convicted whose punishment is longer than three months in prison. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…