Israelis accuse Netanyahu of endangering democracy

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL (AP) — Over 2,000 Israelis took to the streets of Tel Aviv last Sunday, demonstrating against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempts to form an “emergency” government with his chief rival and accusing him of using the COVID-19 crisis to escape prosecution on corruption charges.

Demonstrators wore face masks and largely kept their distance from one another, in line with social-distancing rules, as speakers criticised Netanyahu’s possible partnership with rival Benny Gantz. Some held black flags, which have become the symbol of their campaign in recent weeks.

Gantz, who during three bitter election campaigns over the past year vowed never to sit in a government with Netanyahu due to his legal problems, announced last month that he had accepted the prime minister’s suggestion to form an “emergency” government to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.

The announcement infuriated many of Gantz’s supporters and caused his Blue and White party to fracture. “You don’t fight corruption from within. If you’re inside, you’re part of it,” said Gantz’s former political partner Yair Lapid, who withdrew from the Blue and White alliance last month.

Netanyahu has been charged with fraud, breach of justice and accepting bribes.

He denied the charges and said he is the victim of a hostile media and aggressive police and prosecutors. Protesters last Sunday accused Netanyahu of exploiting the crisis to evade his looming trial and cement his lengthy rule.

Citing the pandemic, Netanyahu’s hand-picked Justice Minister delayed the Prime Minister’s trial just two days before it was to begin until late May.

People keep social distancing amid concerns over the country’s COVID-19 outbreak, during a protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Israel. PHOTO: AP