Israelis jam Jerusalem streets over bill to curb protests

Israeli protesters gather during a demonstration amid a second lockdown in front of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem, on September 26, 2020. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 29 September 2020

Israelis jam Jerusalem streets over bill to curb protests

  • A large convoy of cars clogged the streets surrounding the Knesset
  • The demonstrators have called on Netanyahu to resign

JERUSALEM: Hundreds of Israeli motorists protested in Jerusalem on Tuesday against a proposed measure to curtail public demonstrations during the current nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A large convoy of cars clogged the streets surrounding the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, and scores of people also demonstrated in a square outside the building as lawmakers debated a measure that would effectively clamp down on the weekly protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside his Jerusalem residence.
The demonstrations in central Jerusalem have drawn thousands each week for the past several months, the largest sustained protests against Netanyahu in nearly a decade. Many of the cars in Tuesday’s motorcade were festooned with Israeli or black flags, one of the symbols of the protest movement.
The Israeli government imposed a second countrywide lockdown ahead of the Jewish High Holidays earlier this month in a bid to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Protests have been permitted, but influential ultra-Orthodox lawmakers have fumed over restrictions on prayers while the mass demonstrations have kept up.
The demonstrators have called on Netanyahu to resign, saying he is unfit to serve while on trial for corruption charges and accusing him of bungling his management of the coronavirus crisis and economic damage it has caused.
Netanyahu has said the protests must end due to public health concerns. But protesters say he is using the crisis as a pretext to muzzle them.
Israel announced the lockdown earlier this month and tightened it last week in response to one of the world’s most severe coronavirus outbreaks. The measures have closed schools, malls, restaurants and hundreds of businesses.
The lockdown was initially slated to be lifted on Oct. 11, after the three-week autumn holiday season, but in a radio interview on Tuesday, Israel’s health minister said the nationwide shutdown would likely be extended.
“There is no scenario that in another 10 days we will lift everything and say ‘it’s all over, everything is ok,’” Yuli Edelstein told Israel Radio. He said the Health Ministry was prepared for the possibility of a surge in new cases, and that “reopening of the economy and our lives will be gradual and slow.”
Israel, a country of 9 million people, has recorded over 233,000 confirmed cases and more than 1,500 deaths from the novel coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to the Health Ministry. The ministry said Tuesday the country has for the first time surpassed the US, one of the world’s worst hit countries, in per capita daily coronavirus deaths.
While Israel garnered praise for its swift response to the arrival of the pandemic in the spring, the country reopened its economy too quickly in May and infections have skyrocketed since then.


Saad Hariri named new Lebanon PM, promises reform cabinet

Updated 57 min 22 sec ago

Saad Hariri named new Lebanon PM, promises reform cabinet

  • Hariri immediately promised a government of technocrats committed to a French-backed reform plan
  • He has previously led three governments in Lebanon

BEIRUT: Three-time Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri was named to the post for a fourth time Thursday and immediately promised a government of technocrats committed to a French-backed reform plan.
Hariri said he would “form a cabinet of non politically aligned experts with the mission of economic, financial and administrative reforms contained in the French initiative roadmap.”
“I will work on forming a government quickly because time is running out and this is the only and last chance facing our country,” he added.
President Michel Aoun named Hariri to form a new cabinet to lift the country out of crisis after most parliamentary blocs backed his nomination.
Hariri, who has previously led three governments in Lebanon, stepped down almost a year ago under pressure from unprecedented protests against the political class.
“The president summoned... Saad Al-Deen Al-Hariri to task him with forming a government,” a spokesman for the presidency said.
Hariri was backed by a majority of 65 lawmakers, while 53 abstained.
Lebanon is grappling with its worst economic crisis in decades and still reeling from a devastating port blast that killed more than 200 people and ravaged large parts of Beirut in August.
Aoun warned Wednesday that the new prime minister, the third in a year, would have to spearhead reforms and battle corruption.
A relatively unknown diplomat, Mustapha Adib, had been nominated in late August following the resignation of his predecessor Hassan Diab’s government in the aftermath of the deadly port blast.
Adib had vowed to form a cabinet of experts, in line with conditions set by French President Emmanuel Macron to help rescue the corruption-ridden country from its worst ever economic crisis.
He faced resistance from some of the main parties however and threw in the towel nearly a month later, leaving Lebanon rudderless to face soaring poverty and the aftermath of its worst peacetime disaster.