Thousands rally against Netanyahu govt in Jerusalem

Published April 1, 2024
A drone view of anti-government protesters launch a prolonged demonstration calling for Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to resign and a general election, in front of the Knesset, Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on March 31. — Reuters
A drone view of anti-government protesters launch a prolonged demonstration calling for Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to resign and a general election, in front of the Knesset, Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on March 31. — Reuters

JERUSALEM: Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in Jerusalem on Sunday against Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and against exemptions granted to ultra-Orthodox Jewish men from military service, in scenes reminiscent of mass street protests last year.

Protest groups, including some that led the mass demonstrations that rock­ed Israel in 2023, organised the rally outside parliament, the Knesset, calling for a new election to replace the government.

The protesters also want a more equal share in the burden of army service that binds most Israelis. Around 600 soldiers have been killed so far since Oct 7 and the ensuing war in Gaza, the military’s highest casualty toll in years.

Israel’s N12 News said it appeared to be the largest demonstration since the war began. Haaretz and Ynet news sites said it drew tens of thousands of people. Netanyahu’s cabinet has faced widespread criticism over the security failure of the Hamas attack on southern Israel in which 1,200 people were killed and more than 250 taken hostage to Gaza.

“This government is a complete and utter failure,” said 74-year-old Nurit Robinson, at the rally. “They will lead us into the abyss.”

Israel’s incursion in Palestine has aggravated a longstanding source of friction in society that is also unsettling Netanyahu’s coalition government — exemptions granted to ultra-Orthodox Jewish seminary students from service in the country’s conscript military.

With a March 31 deadline looming for the government to come up with legislation to resolve a decades-long standoff over the issue, Netanyahu filed an application to the Supreme Court last week or a 30-day deferment.

Published in Dawn, April 1st, 2024

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