protest coronavirus Tel Avive
© Avshalom Sassoni/Maariv
Thousands protest economic situation amid coronavirus crisis in Tel Aviv, July 11, 2020
Politicians were told not to come as thousands gathered in Tel Aviv, to warn government not to let them down during COVID-19 financial crisis.

Some 80,000 protesters gathered in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square on Saturday to voice their anger at the failed policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Israel Katz, who promised to help the nation's economy during the COVID-19 crisis.

"No more games!" one of the protest organizers, Ronen Mili of the Association of Restaurant and Bar Owners, told N12. "We waited for four months and haven't seen a dime!"

Some protesters carried signs mock-asking the public for charity via the popular Bank HaPoalim money transfer app, Bit.

Mili was one of the people invited to meet with Netanyahu and Katz on Friday as part of a larger delegation that presented the concerns of students, artists and restaurant owners to the prime minister. Netanyahu urged the delegation to call off the protest and assured them they will hold weekly Friday meetings from now on. Yet most activists, already fed up with promises, declined.

"If one could eat promises," owner of the Barby music club Shaul Mizrahi told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday, "we would all be overweight. We are fed up with words, slogans and figures that are floating in the air."

The Rabin Square protest and the social workers protest were coupled on Saturday by the ongoing nationwide black flag protest. Protesters in Rabin Square covered their heads in black cloth, as in mourning, over Israeli democracy - now being led by a man indicted for corruption and breach of trust.
Black flag protest israel coronavirus
© REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
Protesters wearing masks wave Israeli and black flags as a sign of protest, during a demonstration against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's caretaker government, accusing it of undemocratic measures, outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 25, 2020.
Mocking Netanyahu, who found the time to ask Knesset for, and receive, a NIS 1 million tax break courtesy of the taxpayer, one protester at Rabin Square held a photoshopped image of Netanyahu, his wife, Sara, and son Yair as homeless people. When debating the Knesset decision, Likud MK Miki Zohar argued that "it is not an option to have the prime minister be financially disabled," a comment that provoked a great deal of rage as Netanyahu's personal wealth is valued in NIS 50 million.

A protester wishing to withhold her name said that what makes her angry is that she feels that those in power "are there and they don't care about us." She said "they don't care about the people, they enjoy us being scared because it gives them power."

The protester said she thinks the only hope is in civil disobedience, as the judgment calls made by regular people are "better and more proper" than those made by those who allegedly lead them.

The protest went without incident while hundreds of police officers kept the peace and ensured the protesters were following the Health Ministry's regulations. As the protest ended, many went home with hundreds of protesters blocking nearby streets.


When the crowd arrived at Azrieli Junction with the intention to block it, police asked their members to leave. Some clashes between officers and protesters followed.

Yesh Atid-Telem leaders Yair Lapid and Moshe Ya'alon had asked to address the protest, but they were rebuffed by the organizers, according to KAN News, saying that they wanted the gathering to be apolitical and a "financial protest of the people."

Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Saturday night the protest is "honest, true, justified."

Former justice minister Ayelet Shaked called the event "the protest of the soundman, the garage worker, the restaurant owner," and called on the public sector to also "carry the burden."

Katz was asked the same question about the salaries in the public sector during his appearance on Meet the Press and he responded that he had cut 10% of his pay. When asked about other members of his party, he said, "I do what I see fit."

Welfare Minister Itzik Shmuli said that the hardships facing the middle class "will not be solved with words," and said he will be "their voice in government when the budget is introduced."

Netanyahu and Gantz do not see eye to eye on the budget, with Netanyahu pushing for a rapid six-month budget and Gantz advocating for a budget until the end of 2021.


Netanyahu on Thursday claimed that, during an age of uncertainty, there is little point to plan ahead. Gantz argues that without a horizon, the country will not have stability. The two are obligated by their coalition deal that whoever stands in the way of a budget being passed will step down, allowing the other to rule, until elections are held.

An unnamed official in Blue and White claimed on Friday that Netanyahu's rescue package is pouring election money and that the rapid budget is meant to throw money at the ultra-Orthodox sector, with the goal of breaking for elections in March. Netanyahu denies this.

At the Friday meeting between Netanyahu, Katz and the representatives of industries badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, the prime minister told the delegation that "speaking with you really helped us," and vowed that "if needed, we will do more things, so that nobody will be lost in the shuffle."

Katz said that, in his opinion, the plan he and the prime minister unveiled on Thursday "is your plan" and said it will be presented to the government for approval on Monday.

The NIS 80 billion package Netanyahu and Katz presented on Thursday will extend unemployment aid until June 2021, or as long as the unemployment rate the country is facing is above 10%. Israel's unemployment rate was reported to stand at 21% on Thursday, with roughly one million people out of work.

The plan offers relief and will be brought before the government for approval on Sunday. The first payments for the self-employed and other business owners is expected to be in their bank accounts on Wednesday. Other aspects of the plan require the Knesset's approval and new legislation. Netanyahu complained about bureaucracy and pointed to the lengthy process of passing a law in the Knesset as a reason for previous failures to get the money to those in need.

Thousands of protesters gathered on Friday outside of Netanyahu's official residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem to protest against public corruption.

Protesters reportedly blocked the main road leading to the residence, chanting: "This is not an emergency government for combating coronavirus, but a corrupted government for combating its citizens."
Hagay Hacohen covers Art and Culture for the Jerusalem Post in addition to being a breaking news editor and covering Polish issues. He writes a column for the International Jerusalem Report titled 'Window to the World.' Hagay holds a Masters Degree in Philosophy from Warsaw University and previously worked at the Polish Radio English language station The News PL.