Yaakov Cohen
A Passionate Zionist!

Who is protesting and why in Israel

Demonstrators protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, outside the Prime Minister's Residence, in Jerusalem on July 18, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Demonstrators protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, outside the Prime Minister's Residence, in Jerusalem on July 18, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Fluctuating Corona restrictions, economic crisis, PM Netanyahu’s ongoing clashes with the judicial system and public officials. All these factors mixed with the lack of leadership by public figures have led to a bigger and stronger resilience of Israelis unwilling to live with this lack of leadership.

But it seems that now more than ever, Netanyahu is facing a reality that requires answers and solutions, not just empty words and promises. In most of Netanyahu’s era in power, the economic situation was complicated for most Israelis, but it was bearable.  People lived on credit and loans that they are now unable to repay.

Combine this with the accusations against PM Netanyahu in 1000, 2000 & 4000 cases, and his ongoing usage of power to destroy his “base” supporters’ belief in the justice system and the separation of power in Israel. Opposition to Netanyahu is being built by civilians who have had ENOUGH!

4 different groups of protestors are on the streets in Israel, demonstrating against the government policies and PM Netanyahu himself.

Who are they? What are they standing for? Will they bring a change to Israel? Let me tell you:

The 1st group and the biggest one is called “Crime Minister” and is led by people like Yishai Hadas, Yigal Rambam, and other social activists. They’re calling for the removal of PM Netanyahu from power as he cannot stay in power due to his corruption cases. For the past 4 years they have been demonstrating weekly in the city of Petah Tikva by Attorney general, Avichay Mandelblit’s, house. After Mandelblit decided Netanyahu will have to defend himself in court, they moved to demonstrate in front of the PM residence in Jerusalem with the demand that he will step down from power and will defend himself as a civilian.

The 2nd groups started as the “The singles protests” (מחאת היחידים), led by IAF retired Brigadier-General and Holocaust researcher and educator, Amir Haskel, who started standing in a crossroad by his house with a simple sign calling for Netanyahu to retire, under the belief that Netanyahu is corrupted and corrupting the system. Since then, many have joined him including many of his ex-military service buddies. After the last elections, when Netanyahu maneuvered Benny Gantz to form a government he changed his call to “Eyn Matzav” (אין מצב – No Way(, explaining there is No Way that Israel will be led by an indicted person.

The 3rd group and the last one to form is representing the Self-employed & small business owners, calling themselves “השולמנים” (The Shulmans). What started as a FB group calling for reforms that will help small businesses has become one of the biggest Israeli FB groups with almost 210,000 men and women. The group was formed in October 2019 and is calling the government to make the “right” decisions. But what are their demands? It has become hard to tell. But they protest now as small & medium businesses make almost 70% of Israel’s economy, and due to the Corona crisis, a lot of them are struggling, and many of them are going out of business. Unlike Crime Minster & Eyn Matzav protestors, they are not putting the blame in Netanyahu, rather, they’re just asking for a change in policy.

The 4th and most recent group are called the Black Flags. Their goal is to keep democracy safe and strong. They started forming in a spontaneous demonstration organized by 4 brothers as a reaction to Netanyahu’s attacks on the supreme court, calling to not intervene in the coalition agreements with Blue & White. Since then their protest has grown throughout the nation and people are demonstrating with Black flags in more than 170 bridges and crossroads every weekend.

The thing is that everything is connected – Decisions in Israel are made based on political needs (For example synagogues & Yeshiva’s are kept open while other places are shutting down, per the demands of the ultra-orthodox politicians). Policies are being improvised with no strategic thinking, and the sense is that it is all being handled by Netanyahu to save his own skin.

Israel is in a severe leadership crisis. Netanyahu, who is a skilled politician, was able to neutralize every potential threat to his rule. But time tells that Netanyahu is a much better salesperson than a manager, and Israel needs someone who will take care of business. Who will it be? Hard to tell. But one thing is sure – If the protestors will not come up with tangible demands and solutions they will not help to solve this crisis.

About the Author
Yaakov (Kobi) Cohen is an Israeli-American, born in Jerusalem and now reside to New York City where he works in a Jewish Non-for-Profit. As a political activist, Cohen is most interested in the Israeli-American Jewish relationship and its impact on the future of the Jewish world and seeking to build bridges between Israelis & Jewish Americans, or at least establish a different dialogue. Kobi is a co-founder of Israel Shelanu and Host of BALAGAN - Explaining Israeli Politics Podcast
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