Three Detained as pro-Netanyahu and Anti-corruption Protesters Face Off in Central Israel

Some 500 supporters of the prime minister gathered in Petah Tikva as some 100 anti-corruption protesters held a separate protest in the same square

Anti-corruption and pro-Netanyahu protesters held two separate protests in Goren Square, Petah Tikva, October 12, 2019.
\ Ilan Assayag

Three protesters were detained Saturday evening, as demonstrators in support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced off against counter-protesters in Goren Square in Petah Tikva.

The police said that they had attacked officers and disturbed the peace. The protesters said they were attempting to raise a large sign with the slogan "crime minister" when the police attempted to stop them, causing a commotion. Three were arrested and the sign was destroyed.

Some 500 people attended the third demonstration in support of the premiere under the slogan "saving democracy from the gatekeepers." In addition, some 100 protesters gathered to protest corruption in the square, which is near the home of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, who will decide whether or not to indict Netanyahu in three corruption cases following the hearing that took place at the start of the month.

The two protests were kept entirely separate under heavy security. Dozens of police officers secured the area and the roads around it were closed to traffic. Upon arrival, police directed protesters asking, "Which protest? For the left or right?"

Pro-Netanyahu protesters gather in Goren Square, Petah Tikva, October 12, 2019.
\ Ilan Assayag

Among the pro-Netanyahu protesters were Topaz Luk, the premiere's social media advisor, Petah Tikva Mayor Rami Greenberg, and journalists Erel Segal, Galit Distel Etebaryan and Shimon Riklin. Netanyahu supporters carried signs with slogans reading, "The left is killing democracy," "courts are not a private organization," and "gangsters of the law."

Guy Levi, a former spokesperson for Justice Minister Amir Ohana, spoke at the protest and addressed the attorney general saying, "We're not distinguished jurists, but we have logic and rationality. Tell us how every time there's a positive article about Netanyahu you open an investigation?" Attorney Yoram Sheftal, another speaker at the protest, told protesters, "we won't clear the street for gangs of leftists who are funded by the foundation for destroying Israel." He also referred to the media as "the gangs of media terrorists."

On the other side of the square, Sigalit Kessler, one of the veteran organizers of the anti-corruption demonstrations said that the other protesters are not her enemies. "You can't fight darkness with darkness," she said. "It's not their fault, whoever manipulated them for the last six months and drilled into their DNA that there is no existence without him [Netanyahu] is to blame."

Earlier in October, a pre-indictment hearing was held regarding three corruption cases against the Prime Minister. In Case 1000, the premier is suspected of taking gifts from Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan in return for political favors. In Case 2000, he is suspected of striking a deal with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes for favorable coverage in return for legislation to curb a rival newspaper. And in Case 4000, he is suspected of awarding privileges to telecommunications tycoon Shaul Elovitch in exchange for positive coverage on his Walla news site.

Mendelblit is expected to make a decision by December.