A sticker reads “Impeachment Now!” with a photo of Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu with a bloody hand on his face

Israelis answer ‘battle cry’ to return to anti-government protests

After Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, anti-government protests in Israel quieted, but Israelis are back in the streets, saying their message is more important than ever.

The World

On Saturday night, Yoav Lorch joined a crowd of Israelis gathering in central Tel Aviv, calling for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to step down. It was the first time since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack that Lorch took to the streets in protest.

“In Israel, [we say] ‘when people are shooting, we shut up,’” said Lorch. “So, this was a natural lull. It’s in our DNA in a way to accept it.”

But that lull is over. 

Since Oct. 7, Israelis have rallied in support of hostages and their families, but now they are back chanting for the prime minister to resign — making it clear they blame him for allowing Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, that left more than 1,200 Israelis dead and others in captivity in Gaza, to take place.

A woman holds a placard that says
A woman holds a placard that says “Case 1400” alongside a photo of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a protest in Tel Aviv, Israel, Dec. 16, 2023. The sign references the initial reported Israeli death toll from the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that many find Netanyahu responsible for.Rebecca Collard/The World

Thousands of protestors like Lorch gathered in the pouring rain in Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities on Saturday in the biggest anti-government demonstration since the attack. 

“Our anger towards the government has not diminished,” he said. “It’s been growing and growing, and finally, someone called the battle cry and said, ‘Okay, we’re starting again.’”

Some of the protestors held Israeli flags. Others held photos of Netanyahu with a bloody handprint on his face and the words, “Impeachment Now.”

Israeli President Isaac Herzog warned on Sunday that internal division in the country could hurt Israel’s war effort and security.

“We must not return to the discourse of Oct. 6, of us and them,” Herzog said, referring to the months of protests and political divisions over Netanyahu’s government and its proposed judicial reforms before Oct. 7.

But the protesters say what’s hurting the country now is Netanyahu’s leadership. 

Katti Barr, a member of Mothers Against Violence, said Netanyahu must go. 

“This war works for Bibi to keep control of the government,” Barr said, using Netanyahu’s common moniker. 

Woman wearing glass and yellow safety vest
Katti Bar, a member of Mothers Against Violence, at a protest in Tel Aviv, Israel on Dec. 23, 2023.Rebecca Collard/The World

A poll last month predicted that if new elections were held, Netanyahu’s Likud party would lose almost half of its seats in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament.

Barr also said the events of Oct. 7 pushed some in her movement out of the peace camp.

“There was a very big group on the left side, and women for peace went to the right side,” she said.

In another poll from last month, more than half of Israelis said they believed their army was using too little force in Gaza, despite the large-scale destruction and more than 20,000 people dead. Barr said that Israelis aren’t getting a true picture of what’s happening in Gaza from Israeli media.

“Is different from the pictures that I get from all over the world,” she said.

A woman holds an anti-government sign with a photo of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
A woman holds an anti-government sign with a photo of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a protest in Tel Aviv, Israel on Dec. 16, 2023.Rebecca Collard/The World

The anti-government protests began gaining momentum again last weekend. Among the speakers at the protests was Eran Etzion, the former deputy head of Israel’s National Security Council. 

“[Netanyahu] has reached that stage where he simply no longer cares, like the worst dictators. That’s where we are, unfortunately,” said Etzion before speaking to the crowd of about 200 people. 

He added that an increasingly right-wing, ultra-nationalist movement in the Israeli government is currently backing up that dictator.

“You’ve done all the damage you could. And now you must go [and] pay the price for your responsibility for Oct. 7.” 

Related: Israel’s ‘judicial coup’ protests are going strong. They still might fail.

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