About 20,000 Israelis demonstrated in Tel Aviv on Motzoei Shabbos against government corruption and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who is under criminal investigation over allegations of abuse of office.
The demonstration was by far the largest of weekly anti-corruption protests sparked by corruption allegations against PM Netanyahu, who denies any wrongdoing.
The four-term leader is suspected of involvement in two cases. The first involves receiving gifts from wealthy businessmen and the second involves negotiating a deal with a newspaper owner for better coverage in return for curbs on a rival daily.
This latest protest was prompted by a draft law expected to be passed by the Knesset next week, which would bar police from publishing its findings in two investigations of PM Netanyahu. However, as of Sunday, the prime minister asked that the final version of the bill not apply to cases in which he is personally involved.
While Netanyahu made no mention of the demonstration the night before, media observers did make the connection. As a Haaretz headline put it, “After tens of thousands protest in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu backtracks on controversial police silencing bill.”
The left-wing organizers are hoping that weekly rallies will build into massive events that will eventually force Netanyahu to resign.
A Reuters cameraman and Israeli media put the number of demonstrators at about 20,000, proportionally large for a country the size of Israel. Police would not provide an official estimate.
Critics say the draft law is a blatant attempt to protect PM Netanyahu and keep the public in the dark about his investigation. Supporters of the legislation say it is meant to protect suspects’ rights.
PM Netanyahu has said he has no interest in promoting personal legislation but he has not ordered its two sponsors, close confidants in his Likud party, to withdraw the bill.
PM Netanyahu has described himself as a victim of a political witch hunt and said of the cases against him: “There will be nothing because there is nothing.”