'Your time is up': Thousands protest against Netanyahu over economy, corruption allegations

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Thousands of Israelis rallied outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem on Saturday as anger mounted over corruption allegations and his handling of the coronavirus crisis.

“Your time is up”, read the giant letters projected onto a building at the protest site, as demonstrators waved Israeli flags and called on Netanyahu to resign over what they say is his failure to protect jobs and businesses affected by the pandemic.

The protest movement has intensified in recent weeks, with critics accusing Netanyahu of being distracted by a corruption case against him, in which he denies wrongdoing.

The right-wing leader, who was sworn in for a fifth term in May after a closely-fought election, has accused the protesters of trampling democracy and the Israeli media of encouraging dissent.

Protests have stretched beyond Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem, with many Israelis gathering on bridges and highway junctions across the country.

On a busy highway overpass north of Israel’s commercial hub of Tel Aviv, demonstrators waved black flags and chanted slogans while cars honked their horns from the road below.

One protester, Yael, said she had lost her job at a Tel Aviv restaurant and that government aid has been slow to come.

“You’d think that a once-in-a-lifetime crisis like this would push Netanyahu to act, and it hasn’t. Enough is enough,” she said, declining to give her last name.

Israel in May lifted a partial lockdown that had flattened an infection curve. But a second surge of COVID-19 cases and ensuing restrictions has seen Netanyahu’s approval ratings plunge to under 30%.

Many restrictions have since been lifted to revive business activity, but unemployment hovers at 21.5% and the economy is expected to contract by 6% in 2020.

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