Erez Yalon, a disabled Israeli who for nearly a year has dedicated his life to protesting outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem
Erez Yalon, a disabled Israeli who for nearly a year has dedicated his life to protesting outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem
Photo: AFP
A demonstrator wearing a mask of Benjamin Netanyahu gestures during a protest outside Jerusalem District Court as the prime minister's corruption trial resumes, Feb. 8, 2021

Weeks of angry rallies hound Netanyahu to the polls

Erez Yalon, who lives on disability benefits after losing his job, decided to join the protests back in the summer, but unlike his fellow demonstrators, the father of 3 never leaves, only occasionally going home to see his family

AFP |
Published: 03.15.21 , 12:00
For nearly a year Erez Yalon, a disabled Israeli, has dedicated his life to protesting outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s home almost round the clock to demand his departure from office.
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  • The highlight has been on Saturdays, when he is joined by thousands of others united in their opposition to Netanyahu, who they accuse of corruption.
    5 צפייה בגלריה
    A demonstrator wearing a mask of Benjamin Netanyahu gestures during a protest outside Jerusalem District Court as the prime minister's corruption trial resumes, Feb. 8, 2021
    A demonstrator wearing a mask of Benjamin Netanyahu gestures during a protest outside Jerusalem District Court as the prime minister's corruption trial resumes, Feb. 8, 2021
    A demonstrator wearing a mask of Benjamin Netanyahu gestures during a protest outside Jerusalem District Court as the prime minister's corruption trial resumes, Feb. 8, 2021
    (Photo: AFP)
    First launched in June last year, the vocal and colorful demonstrations have gained momentum over the past 38 weeks, with one big rally due to be held ahead of the March 23 elections.
    Israel's longest serving leader who has been in power for 12 consecutive years, is hoping to remain in office following Israel’s fourth election in less than two years.
    “I believe we are going to win big-time because people are tired of this corrupt man (Netanyahu),” Yalon said, also voicing his “disappointment” with supporters of the premier, who affectionately call him “Bibi the king”.
    “You (still) have people shouting, ‘Bibi is a king, Bibi is a king’, they pray for him, they look at him like he is God and they believe everything he says.”
    When the protests first erupted, Yalon, who suffers from severe visual impairment due to a degenerative eye disease, rallied almost alone in his village of Pri Gan in southern Israel near the Gaza Strip.
    5 צפייה בגלריה
    Erez Yalon, a disabled Israeli who for nearly a year has dedicated his life to protesting outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem, holds a banner as he is joined by other protesters
    Erez Yalon, a disabled Israeli who for nearly a year has dedicated his life to protesting outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem, holds a banner as he is joined by other protesters
    Erez Yalon, a disabled Israeli who for nearly a year has dedicated his life to protesting outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem, holds a banner as he is joined by other protesters
    (Photo: AFP)
    But then the burly father of three, who lives on disability benefits after losing his job, decided to join the growing anti-Netanyahu movement in Jerusalem.
    But unlike Saturday night demonstrators, who shout “Yalla lekh Bibi” (Hebrew for “Go away Bibi”) and then pack up and go home after the weekly rally, Yalon stays put.
    He spends most of the week in Jerusalem, camped by day outside Netanyahu’s official residence holding up anti-Bibi banners and by night guarding a tent pitched by protesters outside the premier’s home.
    When he feels tired, he takes a snooze in a flat used as a headquarters by diehard anti-Netanyahu demonstrators.

    It’s all about ‘corruption’

    Sometimes he goes home to spend a few hours with his wife, Limor, in their village, which is dotted with lush green fields and clementine groves.
    5 צפייה בגלריה
    Erez Yalon, a disabled Israeli who for nearly a year has dedicated his life to protesting outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem
    Erez Yalon, a disabled Israeli who for nearly a year has dedicated his life to protesting outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem
    Erez Yalon
    (Photo: AFP)
    Limor supports her husband’s protest activity, saying it “is very important for him”, and drives him to a meeting point 40 kilometres (25 miles) so that he can catch a ride back to Jerusalem.
    Some Netanyahu detractors rail against the premier’s management of the coronavirus pandemic and say protracted lockdowns imposed by the government battered the economy and contributed to job losses.
    Others accuse the prime minister of graft.
    Netanyahu was the first Israeli premier to be indicted in office for corruption when he was formally charged last year in three cases over claims he accepted improper gifts and sought to trade regulatory favour with media moguls in exchange for positive coverage.
    “Netanyahu should be in court, not in the prime minister’s office,” said Yalon, stressing the premier is guilty of “corruption” first and foremost. “Corruption is number one.”
    5 צפייה בגלריה
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) talks to his lawyer ahead of a hearing in his corruption trial at the Jerusalem district court, on February 8, 2021
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) talks to his lawyer ahead of a hearing in his corruption trial at the Jerusalem district court, on February 8, 2021
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) talks to his lawyer ahead of a hearing in his corruption trial at the Jerusalem district court, on February 8, 2021
    (Photo: AFP)
    The combative PM denies wrongdoing and claims he is the victim of a witch-hunt, but he would be forced to resign if convicted with all appeals exhausted.
    Some protesters also would like to see Netanyahu tried on allegations that some of his associates were involved in the country’s purchase of German submarines.
    Every week, a mock submarine is displayed outside Netanyahu’s residence.
    Recently it has been decorated with signs saying: “Yalla Laqalpi” (Hebrew for “Go vote”).

    ‘Society wants change’

    Recent polls show that Netanyahu, 71, a master political survivor, may struggle this time to clinch a necessary 61-seat majority in parliament to keep the premiership.
    Analysts say the electorate is divided between the right, represented by Netanhayu, and centrist and leftist parties opposed to him, and that protests have played a role in the political landscape.
    “The protests helped maintain a momentum because it made people realise there is a movement… there is a vocal and committed segment of society that wants change,” said political analyst Dahlia Scheindlin.
    5 צפייה בגלריה
    Karin Brauner, Sharon Saguy and Yarden Grosser members of the 'Pink Front' protesters play drums as they march during a weekly anti-Netanyahu demonstration in Jerusalem
    Karin Brauner, Sharon Saguy and Yarden Grosser members of the 'Pink Front' protesters play drums as they march during a weekly anti-Netanyahu demonstration in Jerusalem
    Karin Brauner, Sharon Saguy and Yarden Grosser members of the 'Pink Front' protesters play drums as they march during a weekly anti-Netanyahu demonstration in Jerusalem
    (Photo: Reuters)
    “Reminding the voters of that has had some impact but it is hard to quantify it,” she added.
    During the last three elections, Yalon voted for centrist leader Benny Gantz. But after the ex-military chief struck an alliance with Netanyahu to form a coalition, Yalon said he felt betrayed.
    “We have lots of things to repair,” he said. “I know who I am going to vote for. It was hard to decide but I am going to vote for Merav Michaeli. She is an honest woman,” he said of the new leader of the Labor Party.
    Until then, Yalon is preparing for Saturday’s pre-election rally, the 39th anti-Bibi protest since last June.

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