Almost two thousand people gathered in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square Sunday to protest anti-democratic measures passed during the coronavirus crisis and the policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while maintaining social distancing.
The protest included speeches by lawmakers and other public figures. "This is how democracies die in the 21st century," said Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid in his speech, "They don't die because tanks overtake parliament, they die from the inside."
The "Black Flag" demonstrations, which began in March, are a response to stringent coronavirus policies that include phone tracking for civilians. Police marked spots on the ground where protesters could stand, and organizers were required to provide participants with masks.
Israel's parliament was tasked with forming a government last Thursday after speaker Gantz and Netanyahu missed a deadline to seal an alliance, but negotiations between the sides were ongoing. Parliament has no clear path towards a stable governing coalition, which is leading to the country's worst-ever political crisis.
Demonstrations are allowed under Israel’s coronavirus restrictions, as long as participants maintain distance from each other and wear face masks, according to Reuters. Wearing protection masks and mostly dressed in black, the protesters observed social distancing rules to fight the spread of the coronavirus. Many waved black flags as a symbol for threats against Israel's democracy.
A large number of police forces is also present at Rabin Square to enforce social distancing restrictions. The protest was moved from a smaller venue so that organizers could comply with another police requirement – to maintain a distance of two meters between protesters, as well as clusters of ten people separated by ten meters from the next group.
The Police also required organizers to mark the spots where people can stand and said speakers must call on protesters to "maintain distance and wear a mask for the safety of the participants."
"You don't fight corruption from within," said Yair Lapid, the new opposition leader, of his former ally Gantz. "If you're inside, you're part of it." “Democracies in 21st century die because "good people are silent and weak people surrender", he said.
Israel has reported more than 13,000 coronavirus cases and 172 deaths. A partial lockdown has confined most Israelis to their homes, forced businesses to close and sent unemployment soaring to about 26 per cent. Some restrictions have been eased since Saturday.