More than 2,000 persons assembled in the central Israeli city of Petah Tikva on Saturday night, August 5, to protest against Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit’s lenient treatment so far of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the corruption probes being conducted against the PM.
“I was at the demonstration in Petah Tikva tonight in order to send a message: ‘Netanyhau must go!’” Communist MK Dov Khenin (Hadash – Joint List) tweeted following the event. “A prime minister under investigation needs to go home quickly.” Dozens of persons attended a counter-demonstration held by the Likud in Petah Tikva. MK David Bitan, the coalition chairman, and MK Nava Boker were in attendance.
Saturday night’s rally in Petach Tikva marked the 37th consecutive week-end evening that anti-corruption protesters gathered not far from AG Mendelblit’s home in that city. The most recent rally took place in the wake of a deal state prosecutors signed earlier in the week with Ari Harrow, a former Netanyahu aide, who agreed to turn state’s evidence. Despite the deal, speakers at the rally accused Mendelblit of dragging his feet with the probe, and of protecting Netanyahu. The protesters called on Mendelblit and Netanyahu to resign, and carried signs that condemned corruption and accused the attorney general of colluding with the prime minister.
The Israel Police confirmed on Thursday, August 3, that the prime minister is suspected of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Harrow, a former Netanyahu chief of staff, is supplying information in two key affairs: Allegations that the prime minister received gifts from wealthy benefactors, and secret negotiations Netanyahu allegedly held with the publisher of Israel’s most popular newspaper in return for favorable coverage. Under his deal with the prosecution, Harrow will be convicted of fraud and breach of trust in a separate case, but will avoid jail time. Instead, he will do community service as pay a 700,000-shekel ($193,000) fine.
Similar protests were held on Saturday night at 16 other locations across Israel, including: Rosh Pina, Nahariya, Haifa, Afula, Hadera, Netanya, Holon, Ness Ziona, Kiryat Gat, Ashdod, Modi’in, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan, Ashdod, Kfar Saba and Beersheba. Poet Sami Shalom Chetrit, who spoke at the Petah Tikva rally, called on Likud lawmakers to “show Netanyahu the door, otherwise he will drag the country down with him into the abyss.” He urged Mendelblit to “sit down and write the indictment.”