Netanyahu lashes out at anti-government protesters as demonstrations continue
Netanyahu has faced a wave of protests in recent weeks, with demonstrators calling for the resignation of the long-serving leader, who is on trial for corruption charges, along with his handling of the coronavirus crisis.
He has painted the protests as dens of "anarchists" and "leftists" out to topple "a strong right-wing leader".
In a six-minute rant at a meeting of his Cabinet, Netanyahu slammed the media for "inflaming" the protests and for misrepresenting incidents of violence against the protesters.
"There has never been such a distorted mobilisation - I wanted to say Soviet but it has already reached North Korean terms - of the media in favour of the protests," he said.
Netanyahu said the media ignored "wild and unfettered incitement, including daily calls - including the day before yesterday - to murder the prime minister and his family".
He said the protests were breeding grounds for coronavirus that were being allowed to take place with no limits, shutting down streets and neighbourhoods, claiming that right-wing protests have not been given such free rein.
He condemned violence "from all sides" at the start of his remarks before tearing into the media he has long viewed as hostile toward him.
Also at the cabinet meeting, alternate prime minister and defence minister Benny Gantz said the protests must be allowed to take place with demonstrators shielded from violence.
"The right to protest is the lifeblood of democracy and violence is the erosion of the foundation of democracy," he said.
Weeks of unrest
Israel's government was established in May after three costly, divisive and ultimately inconclusive elections, with the specific goal of countering the coronavirus crisis and soothing the schisms in society.
But from the get-go it has been characterised by deep internal fighting on most of the key issues, sparking talk of yet another round of elections. With Netanyahu on trial for corruption and being blamed for mismanaging the country's deepening public health and economic crisis, an angry public has taken to the streets in the largest demonstrations in nearly a decade against the long-time prime minister.
The growing protests have recently taken a more violent turn, with right-wing activists assaulting peaceful demonstrators. While Gantz has sympathised with the demonstrators, Netanyahu has taken a more confrontational approach, denouncing them as radicals and anarchists.
Agencies contributed to this report.