Thousands of demonstrators filled the streets near the official residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in central Jerusalem on Saturday night, as summer-long protests against Israel’s leader maintained their momentum.
Throughout the summer, thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets, calling for Mr Netanyahu to resign, protesting against his handling of the country’s coronavirus crisis and saying he should not remain in office while on trial for corruption charges.
Saturday’s protest comes ahead of a deadline on Tuesday when the coalition government must agree on a budget plan or trigger new elections that would be the fourth in just over a year.
Ignoring police suggestions for alternative routes, the protesters marched from several parts of Jerusalem through key roads trying to reach Mr Netanyahu’s residence on Balfour Street.
Outside the residence, they hoisted giant balloons depicting smeared heads of the leader and his rival-turned-coalition partner Benny Gantz of the centrist Blue and White party, waved Israeli flags and the black flag of one of the grassroot protest movements.
A sign read “Balfour is in our hands,” referring to the residence address, while other signs called on Mr Netanyahu to quit and a placard described him as the “Crime Minister.”
Israeli police said they arrested seven protesters “on suspicion of violating public order and assaulting police officers”.
Last week, Mr Netanyahu announced a US-brokered deal to normalise ties with the United Arab Emirates, making it the third Arab country to establish full relations with Israel. The historic breakthrough has not helped calm the demonstrations against him.
Mr Netanyahu has rejected calls to step down while he is on trial and claimed the protests are the work of leftists and the media.