Approximately one thousand demonstrators assembled on Saturday evening, August 19, in front of the police station in the city of Petah Tikva in central Israel, after they were prevented by police from protesting near the home of Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit’s who resides in that city. For 38 consecutive previous Saturday evenings, demonstrators had been protesting outside the AG’s home against the alleged corruption of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing government, and calling for Mandelblit to indict Netanyahu based on ongoing police investigations.
At last Saturday night’s alternative venue outside Petah Tikva police headquarters, protesters chanted “Police State!” and “Bibi Go Home!”
Like in occupied East Jerusalem, police blocked many streets in Petah Tikva in advance to prevent protesters from reaching the attorney general’s house by car or by foot. Residents were allowed to pass while the demonstrators were asked to turn around. The police made it clear that “it would not allow a demonstration in the area because there was no permit for one.” 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.
The police detained Mani Naftali, one of the organizers of the demonstration, while seated in a car on suspicion of “disturbing public order.” Naftali in the past had sued the Netanyahus for the way they allegedly treated him when he was working at the Prime Minister’s Residence. Attorney and journalist Eldad Yaniv, himself a die-hard opponent of Netanyahu, was also detained. Yaniv, wrote on his Facebook page that the police are “lying hysterically” and that protesters should show up in the usual place at 8 pm Saturday.
On Thursday, August 17, Police Legal Adviser Ayelet Elissar, wrote to the protest’s organizers that the police “will not authorize the demonstrations…because of a significant change in the size of the demonstrations and their character.”
Coalition chairman David Bitan (Likud), who had been organizing small counter-protests, praised the police’s decision, calling the rallies “anti-democratic” and “immoral.” Bitan accused Yaniv of being a “left-wing extremist who doesn’t respect the laws of the State of Israel and police regulations.”
The Movement for Quality Government asked the judiciary to issue injunctions against the police, allowing the rallies to continue and preventing police from making any further decisions in relation to them.