Growing Fears of Anarchy in Israel As Protests Intensify

Anti-Netanyahu rage, worsening Corona crisis create volatile mood; observers fear that violent protests and public anger are pushing Israel toward anarchy.

Protester in street
(Archive photo: Unsplash)

The recent violence in protests against the government is sparking concerns about growing domestic chaos. Saturday night, police detained dozens of unruly protesters in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Last week in Jerusalem, activists tried to break through barricades around the prime minister’s home, blocked railway tracks and assaulted police officers and journalists.

Meanwhile, the public standing of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is quickly eroding. Notably, polls show that his Likud party has lost some 20% of its support within a month.

The Jerusalem riots were led by anarchists who merged with peaceful protesters, said Jerusalem district police commander Yaron Yadid. The level of violence was unprecedented for this type of rally, he said.  

Pundits across the political spectrum are warning that the situation could spiral out of control. Right-wing journalist Hagai Segal wrote that the “anarchist spirit” now prevalent on the left could draw Israel into a grave domestic clash. Leftist commentator Zvi Barel warned that protesters are on the verge of taking the law into their own hands.

From Panic to Anarchy

As Israel fails to contain the Coronavirus and plunges deeper into an economic crisis, more frustrated citizens blame the political leadership. Journalist Riki Maman warned that public panic over the pandemic could lead to anarchy. People who lose faith in the government’s ability to manage the crisis will stop following the rules, she said.

Veteran pundit Amnon Lord also sounded the alarm, writing that violent protests threaten to push Israel into anarchy. He added that aggressive demonstrations calling to oust Netanyahu are reminiscent of a putsch attempt.

The latest rallies are spearheaded by longtime Netanyahu critics, including radical activists on the left. However, as the protest movement gains steam it increasingly draws other Israelis hard hit by the economic carnage. While many countries are emerging out of the crisis, the unemployment rate in Israel remains above 20 percent.

Most dangerously, continued protests raise the potential for violent clashes between Netanyahu supporters and opponents. Such street fighting could lead to bloodshed, further escalating a tense situation and pushing Israel into greater turmoil.