TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Several thousand Israelis took to the streets in Tel Aviv on Saturday night, demonstrating against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new coalition deal with his chief rival a day before the country’s Supreme Court is to begin debating a series of legal challenges to the agreement.
Demonstrators gathered for the third consecutive weekend in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, standing more than two meters (six feet) apart in organized rows to conform with social-distancing rules to protect against the spread of the coronavirus.
Netanyahu last month reached a power-sharing deal with his chief rival, Benny Gantz. Protesters are upset that the deal leaves Netanyahu in power as he prepares to go on trial for corruption charges.
“Shame! Shame!” chanted the protesters. One of the posters showed a picture of Netanyahu and Gantz with the slogan, “We Say No to a Corruption Government.”
Under the deal, Netanyahu and Gantz agreed to share the premiership, with Netanyahu serving as prime minister the first 18 months and Gantz serving the next 18 months. It also includes a clause to advance plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, including Israeli settlements, starting July 1.
Saturday’s protest was organized by the Movement for Quality Government in Israel, one of the advocacy groups that has filed a legal challenge to the country’s Supreme Court. Smaller protests were also taking place in other cities across Israel.
The groups are asking the high court to ban any indicted politician, including Netanyahu, from being allowed to form a new government. They also say that parts of the coalition deal are illegal.
If the court strikes down the coalition deal, Israel could be plunged into a fourth consecutive election in just over 12 months.