Israeli PM slammed for linking 'judicial coup' protesters to PLO, Iran
Netanyahu lashed out at Israelis who have protested against a judicial overhaul, claiming the protests were unlike those seen in Israel in previous years.
"This time, we see demonstrations against Israel by people that are joining forces with the PLO, with Iran, and with others," Netanyahu told media. "Nothing surprises me anymore."
The Israeli PM and his far-right government have come under intense scrutiny for championing an overhaul of the judiciary which critics say will weaken democracy.
Hundreds of protesters assembled at Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion Airport early Monday as Netanyahu headed to the US, chanting "Bibi is not welcome in the White House" and "Go, don't come back."
Monday's comments from Netanyahu, who is set to address the UN General Assembly in New York, were quickly denounced by opposition politicians.
Lawmaker and former defence minister Benny Gantz said the protesters were "patriots who love the country."
"The enormous damage Netanyahu is causing to Israeli society will not be solved even by a thousand fiery speeches at the UN," Gantz said.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid said of Netanyahu's remarks: "No one has destroyed our image in the world more than Netanyahu in recent months."
The Israeli prime minister's office later clarified in a statement that he had been speaking of the "unprecedented nature" of Israeli citizens demonstrating at the same time as "PLO and BDS supporters".
Further criticism has plagued the run-up to Netanyahu's US visit, as American Jewish leaders have spoken against the prime minister's alleged planned meeting with Elon Musk.
Musk, the billionaire owner of X - the social platform previously known as Twitter - has been accused of amplifying anti-semitism, partly by reinstating accounts previously banned "racist" accounts. The meeting with Netanyahu is reportedly meant to help dissolve the controversy.
Netanyahu is also set to meet President Joe Biden in the US. Anti-judicial overhaul demonstrations are planned in New York, including rallies outside the United Nations offices and the hotel the Israeli prime minister will be staying in.