Massive protest expected in Tel Aviv amid economic crisis - report

"The protesters do not intend to be nice," one of the organizers said.

Police are seen arresting a protester at Tel Aviv's Rabin Square on June 6. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
Police are seen arresting a protester at Tel Aviv's Rabin Square on June 6.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
A large, violent protest is expected in Tel Aviv Saturday evening as Israel goes deeper into economic crisis amid new coronavirus-related restrictions, Ynet reported early Saturday morning.

The protest is reportedly organized by NGOs representing self-employed Israelis, but it is expected to be attended by thousands of students, contract employees and business-owners who were financially impacted by the emergency regulations the first time around.

"The protesters do not intend to be nice," one of the organizers told the media outlet, adding that the demonstrators' plan for Saturday evening is "showing rage and blocking roads to make sure the protest will not be forgotten."

Thousands rallied Friday afternoon outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's official residency on Jerusalem's Balfour Street, blocking roads and demanding his resignation, according to N12.

In a Thursday interview with Reuters, Opposition Leader Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid-Telem) warned protests over Israel's economic situation may turn violent amid growing desperation while unemployment stands at a record 21%, just four percent lower than several months prior during the April lockdown.

"We are talking to people who are becoming more and more desperate and angry, who feel, and rightly so, that the country has deserted them at their hardest hour," Lapid told Reuters.

"I sympathize with the anger and I also worry about the possibility of violence as a result of this anger," he continued, adding that Israel is "not that far. Not far enough" from violent unrest.

Another recent event that sparked outrage among Israelis, contributing to the protests' momentum, was Likud Minister-without-Portfolio Tzachi Hanegbi's Sunday comment saying claims of hunger and food shortages were "bulls**t" and "populism." 

Following his comments, Hangebi's Wikipedia page was temporarily changed, saying the minister-without-portfolio is a "corrupt opportunistic pig."

According to Ynet, while the private sector's representatives were discussing the crisis with Netanyahu and Finance Minister Israel Katz, the protest organizers signed the license for the demonstration, expected to take place on Rabin Square on Saturday.

During the previous lockdown several months ago, Haaretz reported the IDF's military intelligence conducted a surveillance operation among Israelis in order to assess resentment in the public.

A team from the National Security Council tasked with combating the coronavirus pandemic discussed an armed revolt scenario in April that may be caused by the deteriorating economic situation in Israel, the media outlet reported.

The 30-member team that brought together government officials, analysts and representatives from the IDF, the NSC, police and academia, reportedly discussed the circumstances that may lead to such a civil uprising alongside ways to suppress it. 

The team's recommendations, summarized in a document obtained by the media outlet, discussed two possible scenarios. The first one being a "civil uprising" or "large-scale civil disobedience," with the second being "distress that may lead to resentment or anger within the public."

The team claimed that distress and anger "will not lead to large-scale social phenomena on their own, at least in the short term." The second scenario, however, holds the potential to cause substantial "long-term damage to Israeli society and democracy."

A potential cause of a large-scale uprising, says the document, may be the loss of faith in the government and the political system, or the appearance that the government is losing control over the pandemic spread or the state. 

Other elements with a substantial role in causing a civil uprising may be economic struggle, mortgage and the loss of the ability, by some, to afford rent or even buy food. The possibility of a food shortage has also been discussed by the NSC-IDF team.