JERUSALEM (AP) — Thousands of Israelis on Saturday renewed weekly demonstrations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling for the long-serving leader to resign over corruption charges against him and his alleged mishandling of the coronavirus crisis.
Protesters held signs reading “Go,” and “Bibi, let my people go,” referring to Netanyahu by his nickname.
The protest in a Jerusalem square near Netanyahu’s official residence comes as Israel is the midst of its third national lockdown, which was recently tightened to shutter schools, and as the country presses forward with a world-leading vaccination drive. Netanyahu’s trial was set to resume this week, but was postponed indefinitely amid the tighter restrictions.
Netanyahu has been indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust connected to three long-running investigations. He has denied any wrongdoing and says he is the victim of a “witch hunt” by hostile media, law enforcement and judicial officials. Protesters argue that Netanyahu cannot properly lead the country while under indictment.
Israel has seen a recent surge in cases despite unleashing one of the world’s fastest vaccination campaigns. The country has given the first of two vaccine doses to nearly 20 percent of its population, and Netanyahu said Thursday that Israel has secured enough vaccines to inoculate the whole adult population by the end of March.
Netanyahu has placed the vaccination drive at the center of his campaign for reelection that same month. On March 23, Israel will hold its fourth nationwide vote in less than two years. In the meantime, he has called on Israelis to make “one last big effort” to halt transmission by adhering to the tightened restrictions.
Image; An Israeli protester holds a giant syringe during a demonstration against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu near his official residence, in Jerusalem, during the third nationwide coronavirus lockdown, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021. Protesters demanded that the embattled Israeli leader resign as he faces a trial on corruption charges and grapples with a deepening coronavirus crisis. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)