Israeli anti-government protesters rally in Jerusalem

By Thomson Reuters Jun 17, 2024 | 12:26 PM

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Anti-government protesters converged on Jerusalem on Monday, calling for new elections in an effort to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who once again sits atop one of the most right-wing coalitions in Israel’s history.

A wartime unity government fell apart a week ago when two centrist former generals, Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot, quit, leaving Netanyahu dependent on ultra-Orthodox and far-right partners. Their hardline agenda caused a major rift in Israeli society even before Hamas’ Oct. 7 assault sparked the war in Gaza.

The often weekly demonstrations have yet to change the political landscape, and Netanyahu still controls a stable majority in parliament.

Following the departures of Gantz and Eisenkot, opposition groups declared a week of street protests that include blocking highways and mass demonstrations.

By sundown, a crowd of thousands had gathered outside the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, and planned to march to Netanyahu’s private home in the city.

Many waved Israeli flags. Others carried signs criticizing Netanyahu’s handling of pivotal issues, like promoting a divisive military draft bill that exempts ultra-Orthodox Jews from otherwise mandatory service, as well as his handling of the war with Hamas in Gaza and fighting with Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

“The healing process for the country of Israel, it starts here. After last week when Benny Gantz and Eisenkot left the coalition, we are continuing this process and hopefully this government will resign soon,” said protestor Oren Shvill.

(Reporting by Ilan Rosenberg and Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)