Israel’s move to limit protests in new coronavirus lockdown law triggers more mass demonstrations

Israel’s parliament has adopted new legislation which severely limits the right to protest amid the pandemic. The law, however, seems to have added new fuel to months-long protests over PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s alleged corruption.

The controversial, government-backed legislation was adopted on Wednesday following a heated all-night debate in the Knesset.

The edict, which forms part of a second national lockdown that kicked off on September 18, bans Israelis from holding protests farther than 1km (0.6 miles) from their homes in a move said to be essential to help curb the alarming rates of coronavirus spread in Israel.

Critics of the measure have alleged that the move was actually politically charged rather than actually required to battle the epidemic. “What’s the next step? Banning the opposition leader from addressing parliament?” opposition leader Yair Lapid said in a tweet.

The legislation, however, has apparently had an opposite effect as scores of people took to the streets of Israeli cities on Wednesday evening, defying the new rules and venting their anger over Netanyahu’s policies.

Israel has endured months of anti-government protests, primarily focusing on the alleged corruption of the PM. Netanyahu has been entangled in several criminal probes and protesters have called for his resignation. The coronavirus crisis – and its handling by the government – have generated further dissatisfaction.

The country has recently faced a major spike in coronavirus cases. Israel has registered more than 245,000 confirmed cases, including some 1,500 deaths, the latest statistics from Johns Hopkins University shows.