Several thousand Israelis took to the streets of Tel Aviv again last Saturday night, December 16, in yet another anti-corruption demonstration, the third in three consecutive weeks, against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is being investigated in a pair of graft probes. This latest “March of Shame” in Tel Aviv came a day after fraud squad investigators questioned Netanyahu for the seventh time, while in parallel the government is continuing its efforts to push through the so-called police “recommendations bill.”
Protesters marching down Rothschild Boulevard chanted “Bibi is an embarrassment,” “Bibi go home,” and “Netanyahu to Jail” leading chants against the prime minister and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit whom they accuse of shielding Netanyahu. Playing on the chant from demonstrations in 2011 calling for “social justice,” protest leaders led the crown Saturday to the trope, “the people demand social justice.”
The protest, which was opened with a Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony, was held under the banner “We have come to drive out corruption,” a play on the festival’s children song named “We have come to drive out darkness.” Rothschild Boulevard, where the demonstration took place, was closed to traffic as a result of the protest, as were several surrounding streets. Police were out in force, including the Tel Aviv rollerblading unit patrolling up and down the central boulevard. Hundreds held similar protests in several cities across the country including Jerusalem, Haifa, Modi’in, Ashkelon and Ashdod.
Police are reportedly planning to recommend that Netanyahu stand trial for two criminal infractions popularly dubbed cases 1000 and 2000, that involve suspicions he received favors from Israeli and foreign businessman in exchange for advancing their business interests.
On Friday, December 15, following interrogation by police investigators for the seventh and likely last time in the yearlong probes, Netanyahu once again denied the suspicions against him, promising that the two separate criminal investigations against him will come to nothing.
Netanyahu’s close political ally and Chairman of the coalition, MK David Bitan (Likud), has also been grilled at length this past week over separate allegations of bribery and links with organized crime during his time as deputy mayor of Rishon Lezion, near Tel Aviv. Bitan is a key proponent of the controversial recommendations bill.
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