Hundreds Rally For and Against PM as Corruption Investigation Takes New Turn

YERUSHALAYIM -
MK David Bitan arrives to a protest in support of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu near the weekly protest against the corruption of the government outside the home of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, in Petach Tikva, on Motzoei Shabbos. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

As it has been for at least the past several months, the Petach Tikvah home of State Attorney Avihai Mandelblit on Motzoei Shabbos was the focal point of demonstrations both in favor and against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Mandelblit’s home has been the locus for protesters demanding that he act more aggressively in moving along the alleged corruption cases involving Netanyahu, and developing indictments.

The protests took on a new focus Motzoei Shabbos after reports that Netanyahu’s former Chief of Staff, Ari Harow, had 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.

Several Likud MKs appeared at the pro-Netanyahu rally Motzoei Shabbos. “We are all meeting tonight to support the prime minister,” MK Ayoub Kara wrote in a social media post. “Enough of the persecution, enough of shooting invective wildly, enough of the witch hunt,” he wrote, referring to the extensive media campaign against Netanyahu.

“Even though there are those who are gleefully readying the hangman’s noose, I am here tonight to give the following message: Prime Minister Netanyahu is the right man to deal with the many challenges that we face,” said Likud MK Amir Ohana at the pro-Netanyahu rally. “Like everyone else, he is innocent until proven guilty. The way to prove a case against him is in court, not in social media posts.”

On the other side of the street, protesters calling for Netanyahu to resign demanded that the prime minister be removed from office. “The die is cast, we must bring together all the protests that are going on throughout the country into one huge venue and say clearly that a prime minister who is under criminal investigation must go home,” said Labor MK Yoel Hasson. “They will call us traitors, they will say we conspired to remove the prime minister, that all of us here protesting against Netanyahu are being paid by international leftist groups. It will not help; the truth is stronger than the threats of the right.”

Netanyahu himself related to the new developments in the case Friday afternoon in a social media post. “I am not going to discuss the noise in the background, and I am continuing the work that needs to be done,” he said, wishing Israelis a Shabbat Shalom and saying that he continued to pray for the welfare of the victim of last week’s stabbing terror attack in Yavneh.