Thursday, April 25

Israel-Hamas War: Live Updates – The New York Times

Thousands of Israelis flooded the streets in front of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem on Sunday to call for early elections, in one of the largest protests against the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas.

The demonstration in Jerusalem is expected to last four days, with some demonstrators planning to stay in a group of tents near Parliament. On Sunday, several signs called for Mr Netanyahu’s “immediate removal”, while others held posters calling for elections, saying “those who destroyed cannot be the ones to repair”.

Elad Dreifuss, a 25-year-old student, said protesting against the government in the middle of war was a difficult decision. But, he added, “if the government cannot meet its responsibilities, something must change.”

Many Israelis have refrained from rallying against the government amid Israel’s military campaign against Hamas.

“We held off for six months,” said Michal Begin, a Jerusalem doctor. “At first we felt we had to be united for the sake of the war effort. »

But now, “many reservists have returned home, many soldiers have left Gaza,” she added. “Our need to mobilize for the intensive war effort has diminished. We can now say that this government cannot continue to serve.”

At a news conference in Jerusalem on Sunday evening before his planned surgery, Mr. Netanyahu responded to criticism and demands made by protesters.

“Calls for elections now during the war, just before victory, will paralyze Israel for at least six months; by my estimate, for eight months,” he said. “They will paralyze the negotiations for the release of our hostages and will ultimately lead to ending the war before having achieved its objectives. The first to welcome this will be Hamas, and that says it all.”

Mr. Netanyahu has faced intense criticism for refusing to take responsibility for the failures that preceded Hamas’ attacks on Israel on October 7 and for failing so far to reach a deal with Hamas to repatriate the remaining hostages held by the militants in Israel. Loop.

But some feared the protests would reignite conflicts in Israel that the war had temporarily calmed. In the months leading up to October 7, Israel experienced immense internal conflict over a plan backed by Mr. Netanyahu to limit the influence of the justice system. Huge protests against the initiative took place every week, with demonstrators accusing the prime minister of trying to undermine the balance of power and democracy in Israel.

Eitam Harel, a 23-year-old reservist from Jerusalem, watched with mixed feelings as flag-waving protesters gathered near Israel’s Supreme Court.

“Protest is a legitimate and laudable thing,” Mr. Harel said. But he added: “The protests could return us to the negative discourse we had before the war. »

Organizers said they hoped the protest could shake up Israel’s political system.

“I believe Israel is facing one of the most difficult times in its history,” Moshe Radman, an entrepreneur who is helping organize the four-day protest, said in an interview. “We need a government that will act for the good of the nation, not in the interests of a prime minister’s political and personal considerations. »

Despite being on trial for corruption, Mr Netanyahu became prime minister again at the end of 2022 after spending more than a year in opposition. His critics said the court cases influenced his decision-making.

Mr. Netanyahu has always rebuffed criticism of his administration, particularly over its handling of the war. He said his government was seeking a “complete victory” over Hamas, even though the militant group still had thousands of fighters nearly six months after the start of the war.

As the first night of the Jerusalem sit-in wore on, some protesters set up tents to sleep in. Israeli police said they dispersed a crowd of protesters blocking traffic, making one arrest.

John Reiss contributed reporting from Tel Aviv.