Israel: Thousands gather in Tel Aviv to protest government’s handling of economy during pandemic

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(I24) Organizers say they wish for protest to remain ‘apolitical’

Over 10,000 Israelis on Saturday turned out to a rally in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square against what they decried as the lack of economic support from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government during a crisis brought about by the global pandemic.

The rally highlighted the plight of the country’s self-employed, many of whom accuse the government of abandoning them after forcing their businesses to close under coronavirus regulations.

“The Israeli government and its leader are responsible for the failure in implementing aid programs,” the organizers stated on a Facebook page devoted to the rally.

The protest comes days after Netanyahu presented a new financial rescue plan worth an estimated NIS 70 billion ($20.3 billion) in order to help small businesses and independent freelancers survive the economic fallout.

Organizers stressed that they didn’t want to affiliate the demonstration with any political factions and expressly asked mainstream politicians to refrain from attendance.

Moreover, the organizers said that hours before the rally they turned away the so-called “black flag” anti-corruption protesters, a movement that has been rallying against Netanyahu, who stands trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Student unions also took part in the event, voicing concern at the large numbers of young people made jobless by closures.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz wrote on Facebook that “The citizens taking to the streets this evening to express their real and justified distress have every right to do so – and we, as their government, have the responsibility to listen and to work toward finding practical solutions.”