/ 02 April 2024

Netanyahu do you think you are?

israel protest

The Squiz

Tens of thousands of Israelis have protested against PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, calling for his “immediate removal” through early elections. The demonstrations began in Tel Aviv before spreading to Israel’s parliament in Jerusalem, Netanyahu’s residence, and to other cities. It’s fuelled by the failure to reach a deal with Hamas over the release of the remaining 130 hostages taken by terrorists on 7 October. Protest organisers say “Israel is facing one of the most difficult moments in its history”. But in a televised address yesterday, Netanyahu said an election would further delay the hostages’ release, and he vowed to continue with a ground assault on Rafah saying “nothing will stop us”. 

How did we get here?

Netanyahu is Israel’s longest-serving PM – first elected in 1996, he’s been in and out of the top job since then – and this is not the first time there’s been a public push against him… Widespread protests calling for Netanyahu’s resignation also took place in 2020-21 over his handling of the COVID pandemic. There were also rallies over his corruption charges and his political opponents have protested his right-wing policies and alliances. And now public anger is focused on his handling of the hostage situation. Many of the 130 are presumed dead, and there are concerns more will die if a ceasefire deal is not reached. On top of his political issues, reports say the 74yo is unwell and underwent hernia surgery over the weekend.

Where does this leave the conflict?

Ceasefire talks are resuming with Israel in Egypt and Qatar after Netanyahu “approved” the attendance of “delegations on their behalf”. And despite recent tensions, Israel and the US will meet virtually today to discuss alternatives to a raid in Rafah, where more than a million Palestinians are sheltering… Israel’s battles aren’t just confined to Gaza right now. Overnight, it’s been accused of an airstrike which destroyed the Iranian Consulate in Syria, killing at least 5 including a senior Iranian commander. Israel hasn’t confirmed its involvement but reports say the strike was carried out by Israeli jets. Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has expressed “grave concern” over clashes at the Israel-Lebanon border between Israeli forces and Hamas’ ally Hezbollah after 3 UN peacekeepers – including an Aussie – were injured by an explosion. Lebanon called it a “targeted attack”, which Israel denies. So there’s still a fair bit to sort out…

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