Outside Israel’s Parliament, Protesters Explain Why Netanyahu Must Go

Hundreds of small silver tents were clustered on the pavement outside Israel’s Parliament in Jerusalem on Monday, stretching at least a city block. Many had Israeli flags taped to their roofs, along with stickers bearing slogans. “There is no greater mitzvah than the reception of captives,” reads one. Another is more to the point, saying simply: “ELECTIONS.”

The tents are temporary homes for some of the thousands of Israelis who began a four-day protest on Sunday night calling for early elections to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Many of them believe he has put his political survival ahead of the broader interests of the Israeli people.

Another night of protest was not long off, and the encamped demonstrators were resting and preparing. Some dozed in tents or relaxed in the shade of trees.

When asked why he had camped out overnight, Haggai Schwartz, 47, said there were “too many issues” with the current Israeli government. And the events of Oct. 7 — a date emblazoned on his black T-shirt, above a large drop of blood — made the need for change all the more urgent, he said.

“The government of Israel’s first responsibility is for the security of its citizens,” he said. “And they failed — completely failed.”

Mr. Schwartz said he wanted the government to take responsibility for those failures. “So far they don’t,” he said. “So we call for elections.”

Ronen Raz, 66, said he was tired of protests — “but there’s no other choice.”

Sitting in the shade at a bus stop next to an empty coffee cup, Mr. Raz said he had been protesting against the government since 2020 and would stay through this protest — “or until Bibi falls down.”

Sunday night’s protest was one of the largest since the start of the war, but appeared smaller than the demonstrations at the peak of a wave of anti-government demonstrations last year, a wave that Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition survived.

On Monday afternoon, Lee Nevo, 45, crouched with a paintbrush over a long white banner spread on the ground. Bubble letters spelled out “IMAGINING PEACE” in Hebrew, and she was filling in a letter with purple paint. She said she was inspired by the crowds on Sunday night.

“It gives us hope that something is going to change actually,” Ms. Nevo said.

The first thing that needs to change, she said, is the government — and Oct. 7 made clear that this could not wait. Behind her, posters with the names and photos of hostages held in Gaza hung along the metal fence: Arbel Yehoud, 28; Karina Ariev, 19; Dror Or, 48; Yoram Metzger, 80. “We have to bring them back,” she said.

“Out there nobody cares about the hostages,” Ms. Nevo added, gesturing to the Knesset, the Parliament building, behind her. “The only thing they care about is staying in the government.”

Gabby Sobelman contributed reporting.

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