Protests Continue Outside Netanyahu’s Home as Likud Blasts Police, Prosecutors for Doing Nothing; Likud, Blue and White Narrowly Avoid Budget Stalemate; Bratslav Hasidic Jews Fume at Government Inaction Over Travel Ban, Renounce Support for Netanyahu; Likud to Back Bill Setting Referendum Regarding West Bank

Rallies against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continue. Two weeks ago protesters rallied at sites around Israel to protest his indictment and handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The main protest, as usual, was held outside Netanyahu’s residence. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Then, on August 22, 2020, police arrested 30 protesters after fighting broke out when police tried to forcibly remove protesters from Paris Square, a site near Netanyahu’s residence. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Days later state prosecutors told police not to arrest protesters for blocking streets, except in exceptional circumstances, prompting backlash from the Likud party. “The right to demonstrate does not include the right to block roads and violate police instructions,” the Likud said in a statement. “This is not what the rule of law and democracy looks like, but rather violent anarchy. It seems everything is kosher when it comes to an attempt to bring down Prime Minister Netanyahu.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Hundreds of protesters blocked streets in Tel Aviv and Haifa, calling for Netanyahu’s resignation. The Likud continued its criticism, saying, “The illegal demonstrations and blockages of roads that disrupt public order are a direct result of the outrageous decision of the state prosecutor to not take action against violators of the law. When it comes to the anarchic left-wing protests against the prime minister, everything is allowed.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Meanwhile, the Knesset seems to have staved off new elections because it could not agree on a budget. Israeli law required the Knesset to approve a new budget by August 25, or the Knesset would automatically be dissolved. As the deadline loomed, MK Zvi Hauser, for the Derech Eretz party, proposed legislation to push the deadline back 100 days. The date was later changed to December 23, 2020. His proposal also prohibited approval of senior appointments until the budget is approved. The Knesset finance committee approved the second and third readings of the bill, moving it forward. Reported by Israel National News. Read more… Even then it was a close call as hours before the final vote Likud went on the offensive, accusing the Blue and White party of straying from its promise that no appointments for top positions in the public sector would be made until December 23. Blue and White responded, accusing Netanyahu of trying to control the appointment of the state attorney and attorney general to influence the outcome of his criminal trial. Reported by Ynet News. Read more… Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Saturday, August 29, protests outside Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem. drew as many as between 20,000 to 37,000 participants as the Hasadim, unhappy with Netanyahu’s handling of a crisis with the Ukraine, joined in and police remained passive. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… On Wednesday, August 26, the Ukraine issued a temporary ban on the entry of foreigners into the country. The ban will go into effect ahead of the Rosh Hashanah holiday, and ahead of an annual pilgrimage when tens of thousands of Bratslav Hasidic Jews visit the burial place of Rebbe Nachman of Bratslav. Reported by Israel National News. Read more…  The ban ignited a political firestorm in Israel, where Bratslav Hasidic Jews blamed Netanyahu for not working on a plan for a travel exception. Israel’s Bratslav secretariat issued a statement saying the government “has shown that religious citizens are second-class citizens and can be assailed [by] every means, so that they [won’t be unable to] fulfill their beliefs.” The Bratslav Hasidic sect also said that it would never again support Netanyahu. Rebbe Nachman founded their sect in the 18th century. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

The political crisis with Bratslav Hasidic sect is to some extent of Netanyahu’s own making as he continued to support Prof. Ronnu Gamzo, the government’s coronavirus czar. Gamzo has pushed to prevent Bratslav Hasidic Jews from taking part in the pilgrimage to the Ukraine, who have called for him to be fired. In a statement, Netanyahu’s office said, “Prime Minister Netanyahu, who appointed Prof. Ronni Gamzo to the position of coronavirus czar and appreciates his dedicated work, works in  cooperation with him on a daily basis and calls on everyone to do the same.” Netanyahu has been keen on avoiding alienating Ultraorthodox Jews but was forced to take a stand after the Ukraine announced it would be restricting travel to that country. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Yamina party leader and one-time Netanyahu ally Naftali Bennett also took Netanyahu to task for his response to the pandemic, accusing him of putting personal enmity towards Bennett ahead of Israelis. In an interview with Israel’s Channel 12, Bennett said, “I submitted a plan to defeat the coronavirus on March 29th to the prime minister, and he did not implement it, and he knew it was correct, because he was afraid of me, that I would succeed. Because he didn’t implement that plan at the time, hundreds of thousands of people are suffering,” Bennett charged. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… The perceived failure of Netanyahu to do anything about the travel ban led Bratslav Hasidic Jews to join protests in front of Netanyahu’s residence. Netanyahu announced on Saturday the formation of a team to formulate a plan to allow the pilgrimage. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Finally, the Likud party is ready to back any bill proposing the holding of a referendum before Israel withdraws from any West Bank settlement territory or dismantles any settlement. A bill along those lines was put forward by MK Zvi Hauser of the Derech Eretz party. The party is a member of the unity government formed by Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…