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Israeli protesters demand Netanyahu’s imprisonment amid political deadlock

Israelis protest against Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, near his official residence in Jerusalem al-Quds on April 10, 2021. (Photo by Jpost)

Thousands of Israeli protesters have rallied across the occupied territories to demand the resignation and imprisonment of embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as the formation of a new cabinet after four inconclusive elections deepened the regime's political crisis.

The protesters marched through the streets across Israel on Saturday evening, calling on politicians to unite against the long-serving premier and organize a new cabinet in order to prevent a possible fifth round of elections.

The rallies were attended by members from high-profile anti-Netanyahu organizations and activist groups, including Crime Minister, Ein Matzav and The Black Flags.

The main demonstrations were held outside Netanyahu’s official residence in the occupied Jerusalem al-Quds and his private home in the coastal city of Caesaria, with hundreds of protesters calling for a “change government,” and demanding that the prime minister be imprisoned.

Reports said Israeli police and security forces had forcibly removed protesters from the two locations late on Saturday.

Marking a shift from previous demonstrations, dozens of protesters gathered outside the residence of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, with clashes breaking out between police and the demonstrators after an attempt to hang a banner that read “Liar” on the premises.

The move came after Rivlin gave Netanyahu the mandate to form a new cabinet on Tuesday, the same day that trial and hearings for the premier’s corruption charges were taking place in a courthouse in Jerusalem al-Quds.

The “Crime Minister” group said in a statement that Rivlin gave Netanyahu the mandate “despite the majority of Israel's citizens voting for the pro-change bloc.”

Moreover, the head of an activist group in Israel said that the president “erred” when he gave the “criminal defendant” the opportunity to form a new cabinet.

Israel's elections, held on March 23, its fourth in two years, ended with neither a Netanyahu-led right-wing nor a prospective alliance of his opponents securing a majority in the 120-member parliament.

The longest-serving Israeli prime minister, in power consecutively since 2009, has a maximum of 42 days to form a new cabinet before Rivlin picks another candidate or asks parliament to choose one.

Netanyahu has so far failed to secure enough pledges of allegiance from smaller parties, which would be essential to forming a majority cabinet.

Israeli voters can be asked to return to the polls for a fifth election in barely two years if neither Netanyahu nor his rivals manage to form a cabinet.

Weekly protests against Netanyahu and his cabinet have been held in the occupied territories for months, with protesters demanding their resignation over corruption.

The 71-year-old prime minister is accused of accepting improper gifts and seeking to trade favors with media moguls in exchange for positive coverage. He has denied wrongdoing.

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