Demonstrators unite to 'rescue' Israel from Netanyahu's rule

Tens of thousands of angry Israelis have taken to the streets for the third consecutive night to demand Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quit, vowing they are not going away.

Mass anti-government street movement that failed to unseat Netanyahu last year brought Jerusalem and capital Tel Aviv to a standstill on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

As the crowds again gathered in Tel Aviv and outside Israel's parliament in Jerusalem on Monday, several protesters told the AFP news agency that Netanyahu has to be forced out "to save Israel".

"This is an existential crisis for Israel," said Einat Avni Levi, 40, whose family had to flee from the Nirim kibbutz a little over two kilometres from the border barrier with Gaza.

"If someone comes and takes me from my bed, and I can't trust my army and my government to come and rescue me, I cannot live here," she said.

Netanyahu had long argued that he was the only leader who could keep Israelis safe. That claim was shattered by the October 7 Hamas blitz that took Israel's much-vaunted security apparatus by surprise.

Need to live together

"There is no way the hostages will come home while he is still in power. He has sacrificed 134 hostages to stay in power," one of the protesters said.

"He doesn't give a damn about anyone else apart from himself."

Israel believes about 130 captives remain in Gaza, including 34 who are presumed dead.

But pressure has been growing on Netanyahu's far-right coalition as anti-regime protesters and families of those held in Gaza have found common cause.

But with the country nearly six months into the war in Gaza — where more than 32,845 Palestinians have been killed, Netanyahu's supporters say this is not the time to change leader.

Many in front of parliament were angry that Israel's ultra-Orthodox — who make up nearly one in five of its Jewish population — are mostly excused military service.

A row over prolonging the exemptions —which technically no longer apply from Monday — is threatening Netanyahu's coalition government.

Army reservists protested in an ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood of Jerusalem on Sunday to demand that religious Jews be made to fight.

But on Monday it was the turn of the ultra-Orthodox — known in Hebrew as Haredim — to vent their anger, with hundreds blocking a major highway in Jerusalem.

Einat Avni Levi said "people have been traumatised" by the October 7 attack.

But, she said, "you cannot wipe out Hamas" as Netanyahu has vowed to do.

"Hamas is an idea," she said. "The only solution is a political agreement. We don't need to be best friends [with the Palestinians], but we do need to live together."