More Netanyahu protests as Israel edges toward snap election

JERUSALEM (AP) — Several thousand protesters in Jerusalem gathered Saturday outside the official residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, demanding his resignation as Israel moves toward an early election.

The protesters have been gathering weekly for the past six months, saying Netanyahu should step down because of his corruption trial and what they say is mismanagement of the country’s coronavirus crisis.

The protests began last spring when Netanyahu and his chief rival, Benny Gantz, agreed to form what they called an emergency government focused on managing the health and economic challenges stemming from the virus pandemic. Their partnership has been paralyzed by infighting, and a pair of lockdowns hit the economy hard, sending unemployment skyrocketing to double-digit figures.

With wintry weather settling in, the crowds have begun to shrink. But participants remained vocal and animated Saturday. Nearly all wore masks, though not everyone observed social distancing.

This week, Gantz, who serves as Netanyahu’s defense minister, joined the opposition in approving a preliminary measure to dissolve the parliament and force new elections. He cited the government’s failure to approve a budget.

A final vote to disband parliament could take place as soon as next week. The budget must be approved by Dec. 23, in any case. A failure to do so would automatically cause the troubled coalition to collapse and trigger an early election.

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