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The ‘Bibi generation’ is turning on Netanyahu

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Tune into government TV briefings in Israel and you’ll see an optimistic and upbeat leader, telling his people to go out and enjoy a beer.

The streets paint a different picture.

[Anonymous protester ‘S’, saying:] "I became the symbol, actually my breasts became the symbol."

That’s ‘S’ - a protester who wished to remain anonymous.

She prompted a social media storm, after going topless atop a statue of Israel's national emblem.

[Anonymous protester ‘S’, saying:] "Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu was addressing my breasts as offensive for the symbols of my country. But I think it's much more offensive for my country that our prime minister is a criminal."

Protests are growing across the country, as a wave of discontent surges with coronavirus infections.

Benjamin Netanyahu has been in power since 2009.

Many young Israelis, like Costa Black, scarcely remember any other leader.

[30-year-old protester Costa Black, saying:] "We are in a survival war, fighting for our lives, for our future and it's exactly so. The deterioration in the last decade is so significant that we have no choice but to go out to the streets and we will be in the streets until we get the needed, deep change in the system."

Economic woes pre-dated the pandemic.

The coronavirus could be the spark that lights a fire.

[Israel Democracy Institute President Yohanan Plesner, saying:] “Less than 30 percent of Israelis think the prime minister is handling the crisis properly.”

Yohanan Plesner is the president of the Israel Democracy Institute, which has been monitoring public levels of trust over how Netanyahu has handled the pandemic.

It’s nearly halved - from 57.5% in April to just shy of 30% in July.

That sentiment is reflected in growing numbers of protesters.

[Israel Democracy Institute President Yohanan Plesner, saying:] “They represent a sentiment that is deeply embedded in the hearts and minds of many Israelis, a sense of disappointment and alienation from the way the political system led by the prime minister is handling the current crisis."

Businesses say financial aid has been slow to arrive, dogged by bureaucracy.

Critics say Netanyahu appeared to lose interest in managing the crisis, failing to prepare a clear exit strategy from lockdown.

Some say he’s been distracted by plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.

That and an ongoing corruption case, in which he denies wrongdoing.

Against that backdrop is the relentless spread of COVID-19.

75% of Israel’s infections occurred post-lockdown.

The country is now on a ‘Red List’, which bars citizens from visiting the European Union.

Many restrictions have been lifted to revive business, but unemployment hovers at 21.5% and the economy is expected to contract by 6% this year.

A Central Bureau of Statistics poll found 55% of Israelis fear they’ll struggle to pay bills.

The long-term implications for Netanyahu remain unclear.

Recent polling shows his Likud Party taking a hit, losing 5 seats in the Knesset to other right-wing parties.

The protests have not reached levels seen in 2011, when high living-costs prompted hundreds of thousands to take to the streets.

But discontent is growing.

Artwork appeared in a Tel Aviv square suggesting it’s Netanyahu’s “Last Supper”.

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