Severity: Warning Alert

Civil Unrest: Additional demonstrations against alleged corruption and the government's COVID-19 response likely in Israel through at least late July.

  • Alert Begins: 22 Jul 2020 11:49 PM UTC
  • Alert Expires: 31 Jul 2020 11:59 PM UTC
  • Event: Anti-government protests
  • Location(s): Nationwide, primarily Jerusalem and Tel Aviv (map)
  • Time Frame: Through at least July 31
  • Impact: Heightened security, localized transport disruptions; possible clashes

Summary
Anti-government demonstrations will likely continue nationwide in Israel through at least the end of July following near-daily protests denouncing alleged corruption and the government’s handling of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Activists have been demanding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s resignation in the wake of his indictment on charges of fraud, bribery, and breach of trust. Public frustration has further grown in response to the negative economic impact of COVID-19; protesters allege that the government has provided insufficient financial support to citizens and businesses.

Protests have been particularly common in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Approximately 2,000 people marched from Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem to Parliament, July 21. Protests in Tel Aviv on July 11 and 18 likewise drew thousands of participants. Future demonstrations could focus on traditionally popular protest sites, such as prominent public squares, city centers, and government buildings across the country. In Tel Aviv, popular protest sites include Rabin, Habima, and Dizengoff squares. In Jerusalem, demonstrations have occurred outside government ministries, the Prime Minister's Office, and Ha-Shabat Square. Localized transport disruptions are likely near all protests.

Recent anti-government protests have led to clashes between protesters and police. Such confrontations are possible if protesters are overly disruptive or fail to observe existing COVID-19 social distancing guidelines and police instructions. Israeli authorities have been allowing demonstrations, provided the participants observe social distancing requirements and wear protective face coverings.

Background and Analysis
Netanyahu’s corruption trial commenced May 24. He was formally charged in late January following a nearly three year-long investigation into allegations that he accepted gifts in exchange for political favors, as well as used bribery and political clout to influence the media in exchange for better coverage. Netanyahu is the country’s first prime minister to be indicted while in office. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and maintains that the charges are politically motivated.

Netanyahu and his chief political rival Benny Gantz signed an agreement to form a national emergency government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic on April 20. The agreement followed three consecutive national elections that failed to bring about a majority government and end the country's year-long political stalemate. Many protesters claim that the coalition government allows Netanyahu to evade criminal charges and endanger the country's democratic institutions. The negative economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has further increased public discontent towards Netanyahu and his administration. The re-imposition of COVID-19 restrictions amid increased infection rates and rising unemployment has seen Netanyahu’s approval rating plunge to below 30 percent.

Advice
Avoid all announced or proposed protest actions due to the potential for violence. Exercise caution near likely protest locations. Monitor local media for protest activity, as organizers may not announce plans in advance. Confirm the availability of transport and allow additional time to reach destinations. Plan for increased security and localized transport disruptions near demonstrations. Follow all police instructions.


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