Binyamin Netanyahu (left) and Benny Gantz. (US State Department; Reuven Kapochinsky/Israel Resilience Party)

Thousands Rally Against Netanyahu as Political Gridlock Overshadows Pandemic

Thousands of Israelis converged on Tel Aviv’s iconic Rabin Square Sunday night to vent anger over Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s perceived unwillingness to compromise and enable the formation of a unity government with rival Benny Gantz. The political gridlock comes as health officials raised the country’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 – the disease caused by the coronavirus – to over 13,500. More than 170 people have died and over 100 are in critical condition, being sustained by ventilators. Rally organizers claim that 5,000 people attended the “black flag” protest, the latest in a series of demonstrations against Netanyahu’s alleged erosion of Israeli democracy. Several prominent lawmakers addressed the crowd, including Gantz’s former allies, Yair Lapid and Moshe Ya’alon, who withdrew their Yesh Atid and Telem parties, respectively, from the centrist Blue and White alliance after Gantz began negotiating with the right-wing Netanyahu, who is under indictment. “The government being formed isn’t an emergency government or a national unity government. It is the fifth Netanyahu government,” Lapid asserted. “In the negotiations, they did not even talk about the coronavirus. They did not talk about the economy. They talked about themselves.” The prime minister’s trial on corruption charges was set to begin in March but has been delayed until next month due to the pandemic. One of the major sticking points in the coalition talks is the reported demand by Netanyahu that he be insulated from any Supreme Court ruling that bars him from heading a government due to his indictment. Gantz is currently threatening to advance legislation to this effect unless an agreement is reached, although it is unknown whether this would receive the backing of a majority of parliamentarians.

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