Israelis take protests online for a digital demonstration against Knesset adjournment

Coronavirus restrictions meant that Israelis wanting to voice worry about the direction of democracy were forced online


Israeli democracy moved online on Saturday night as over half a million people watched a virtual protest broadcast over Facebook targeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Figures showed 65,000 clicked “attending” on Facebook, while 597,000 viewed the live broadcast.

The digital demonstration was targeted at the decision on Wednesday by Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein to adjourn the Knesset, thereby preventing elections by the newly elected parliament to key committees that would oversee the government’s management of the coronavirus crisis.

Speakers at the event included former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy, former Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin and former Attorney General and Supreme Court Vice President Elyakim Rubinstein.

They attacked the Netanyahu government’s imposition of strict coronavirus regulations, including permitting Israeli security services to track the phones of coronavirus patients, despite Mr Netanyahu having failed to secure a majority at the polls on March 2.

The Israeile prime minister is facing indictment for corruption and is seeking another term, many believe, in an attempt to evade the charges.  

Mr Diskin also attacked the opposition leader Benny Gantz over reports that he was willing to serve in government with Mr Netanyahu, alleging that the Prime Minister was launching an assault upon Israel's judiciary.  

He said: “No country in the world is dealing with this crisis with its judiciary and legislature disabled by the executive branch”.

Elyakim Rubinstien, former Attorney General and Vice President of the Supreme Court said: “The judiciary is one of the three branches of government, and violating it erodes the strength of democracy.

Mr Rubinstein urged the Knesset speaker to re-open the Knesset.

The protest was organised by a coalition of organisations including Darkenu, the Movement for Quality Government and the Israel Alliance.

Darkenu said the Israeli government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic had been to “severely attack our own democracy”.

“In none of the emergency periods in Israel's history have [we] seen such strong steps taken against democracy. In this crisis, the government is choosing to take action that jeopardizes the rights of its citizens.”

Israeli police arrested protestors outside the Knesset on Thursday and closed the main motorway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in a bid to prevent protestors reaching the Knesset.   

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