For the seventh consecutive Saturday evening, thousands flooded Tel Aviv’s central Rothschild Boulevard on January 13 to protest against Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government. Once again, Netanyahu opponents joined hands under the banner of the “March of Shame” and called for an end to the corruption of the right-wing government. The demonstration took the form of a march from Habima Square to the home of business tycoon Kobi Maimon, located at 30 Rothschild Boulevard. Maimon is a real estate mogul and major shareholder in Isramco which owns Israel’s offshore Tamar gas fields.
Yair Netanyahu, one of the prime ministers two sons, came under fire during the protest as a result of recent news exposés that a bodyguard and driver, both provided to him by the state, accompanied him on a round of debauchery. The young Netanyahu was taped telling his friend, Maimon’s son, not to argue with him over 400 shekels (approximately $118) meant for a prostitute, because the elder Maimon received $20 billion from Netanyahu, a reference to the natural gas deal that his father signed in 2015.
The director of the Israel Women’s Network, Attorney Michal Gera Margaliot, spoke at the Habima Square about the recently released recording of Yair Netanyahu, in which he is heard making disparaging remarks towards women, and hinted that his behavior could be explained by the example set for him by his father. “This is the prime minister’s son; the same prime minister who publicly supported Nathan Eshel, a sexual harasser; the same prime minister who for nine years has never bothered saying anything about promoting women and who has never appointed a woman to a senior position. Not one. The same prime minister who has never promoted laws for 51 percent of the population,” she slammed.
“We waited for him [Prime Minister Netanyahu] to say that [such disparaging remarks are] serious and wrong; that women are human beings and not some consumer product. We waited but no such statement was made. Instead of supporting the law to prosecute consumers of prostitution and its promotion, [Netanyahu] wants to pass a law prohibiting the publication of the next embarrassing recording. Millions of women will end their silence this year. We deserve better. Let’s have a prime minister who acknowledges us and is committed to our well-being,” Gera Margaliot said.
Waving banners, flags and signs, protesters were heard shouting slogans against the prime minister, such as “the people decided that Bibi (Netanyahu) has no purpose,” “Our country and not Netanyahu’s,” “Corruption is going to be broken,” and “a corrupt government of corrupt tycoons.” Their signs read “Brothers in the war against the corrupt,” “Oh my country, my homeland, you are going to be a fief,” Being a pig isn’t kosher” and “Bibi go home.” Demonstrators also carried red signs provided by Hadash that displayed slogans such as “We are the 99%” and “When the government is against the people, the people are against the government.”
On the margins of the demonstration, clashes broke out with a group of far-right counter-protesters and Netanyahu supporters, who carried signs saying “coup attempt,” and “left=disaster.” Some of the demonstrators shouted at the supporters of the prime minister, suggesting they “go to the Pussycat (a famous Tel Aviv strip club) with Yair (Netanyahu).” Things turned violent for a moment when, at the edge of the demonstration, one of the counter-demonstrators tried to get close to the protesters and was shoved away by the police.
Similar public protests against corruption took place Saturday night in a number of large Israeli cities including Jerusalem, Beer Sheba, Haifa, Rehovot, Eilat and others. Organizers estimated that last weekend’s rallies drew some 10,000 protesters from all over the country.