YERUSHALAYIM - On Motzoei Shabbos, thousands of people gathered once again outside the Petach Tikvah home of State Attorney Avichai Mandelblit, demanding that he more aggressively pursue criminal investigations against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Meanwhile, for the second week in a row, supporters of the prime minister gathered to counter the other group. Police said that the protest supporting Netanyahu had received a license, while the larger protest across the street against Netanyahu did not have one. However, because of the large amount of noise and the inconvenience to local residents, police are considering shutting down the protests altogether.
The anti-Netanyahu protest was significantly larger than the pro-Netanyahu one, but the reason for that, said Likud MK David Bitan, was because, unlike the anti-Netanyahu crowd, the supporters coming out for Netanyahu on Motzoei Shabbos were shomrei Shabbos, and as Shabbos ends late in August, many who would like to come out are unable to. Bitan said that the pro-Netanyahu protest could be moved to a weeknight.
Protests have been going on weekly for months, and they have only gotten larger in recent weeks, and local residents have had enough. Large numbers of police were present on Motzoei Shabbos, along with Yassam special forces and Border Guards, in order to keep the peace between the two groups. Now that the protests have grown from several dozen to thousands, police said they had to be considered mass protests. With residents of the normally quiet neighborhood making mass phone calls to police demanding that the protests be halted, police said that they may prevent both sides from continuing to protest.
The protests have taken on a new focus after Netanyahu’s former Chief of Staff, Ari Harow, last weekend signed a deal to turn state’s evidence in two cases Netanyahu is said to be involved in: Case 1000, in which Netanyahu was accused of accepting extravagant gifts from millionaire Arnon Milchin, and Case 2000, in which the prime minister allegedly leaned on the publishers of Yisrael Hayom to limit distribution of their free newspaper in order to benefit from better coverage in rival newspaper Yediot Acharonot. The signing of such a deal is usually an indication that solid testimony is being offered, and reports over the weekend said that Harow would provide police with evidence of influence peddling by Netanyahu.