(This article was updated on Aug. 11 to include additional background information)
Forty-five people gathered outside the Embassy of Israel in Washington on Aug. 9 to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption.
“It’s scary for me because I’m not sure that the Israel that I know will still be existing when we want to go back,” said Yoni Charash, an Israeli who has lived in the United States for three years. “Bibi is corrupting everything. He’s ruining the country. He’s not thinking about us, the civilians.” Bibi is Netanyahu’s nickname.
Charash is the coordinator of the Washington demonstration, one of six in the United States organized by the UnXeptable movement. The demonstrations, in New York City, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco, were held to support the larger protests against Netanyahu in Israel, which have been ongoing for weeks.
Turnout for a protest outside the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem on Aug. 8 was reported at 15,000. Some put the number as high as 32,000.
In Washington, protesters waved signs reading “Game over Bibi” and chanted “No doubt, Bibi out” and “We all live in an expensive submarine” in reference to a Beatles song. Yehuda Lukacs, of Alexandria, attended the protest. An Israeli who has lived in the United States for more than 30 years, Lukacs said Israelis are angry at Netanyahu, who is on trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
Netanyahu is alleged to have received lavish gifts from billionaire friends, including cigars and champagne. He’s also accused of exchanging regulatory favors with media moguls for positive coverage.
Netanyahu, who heads the right-wing Likud party, was sworn in for a fifth term as prime minister in May. That same month his trial began, but has since been postponed until January due to the coronavirus pandemic, Politico reported. Lukacs said Netanyahu should resign, as “it is impossible that he can be both a prime minister and the defendant in a trial.”
“Many Israelis [are] feeling that the democracy in Israel is slipping away,” Lukacs continued. “And therefore, we need to protect our future and the future of the next generation. So that’s what this demonstration is all about.”
Lukacs said protesters are also upset due to the government’s response to the pandemic and Israel’s related economic crisis. Coronavirus cases in Israel have surpassed 82,000, with 592 deaths as of Aug. 8, according to Al Jazeera. Unemployment has risen to more than 20 percent. Lukacs added that many of the demonstrators are also opposed to the proposed annexation of parts of the West Bank.
Motti Tadmor, of Potomac, has lived in the United States for 15 years. He said if Netanyahu is innocent, as he claims, then he should stand trial and prove it. He also pushed back against those who have criticized anti-Netanyahu protests.
“People like myself, who served in the army, who gave their best lives to Israel, are being called traitors or losers, and we’re nothing but people who love Israel and care about it,” Tadmor said. “The way that the prime minister is portraying everybody who thinks differently from him is as traitors, as people who are enemies. And it’s just frustrating. He gave a lot of years to this country. We appreciate that. It’s time for him to get up and leave. Do the right thing. Stand trial.”