2,000 Rally in Central Israel Against Attorney General's 'Leniency' Toward Netanyahu

A counter-protest of Likud activists draws dozens

Protesters in front of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit's home in Petah Tikva, August 5, 2017.
Tomer Appelbaum

Around 2,000 people rallied in the central Israeli city of in Petah Tikva on Saturday to protest against what they perceived as Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit's lenient treatment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the corruption probes against him.

Some 150 people attended a counter-demonstration held by Likud in Petah Tikva. MK David Bitan, the coalition chairman, and MK Nava Boker were in attendance.

This was the 37th consecutive week that anti-corruption protesters gathered in front of Mendelblit's home, although previous protests have been smaller. The rally took place in the wake of a deal prosecutors signed with Ari Harow, a former Netanyahu aide, to turn state's witness. 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. 

Similar smaller protests were held in 12 locations across Israel, including Rosh Pina, Nahariya, Haifa, Afula, Hadera, Netanya, Holon, Ness Ziona, Kiryat Gat, Ashdod, Modi’in, Jerusalem 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 party with him into the abyss." He urged Mendelblit to "sit down and write the indictment."

"Bibi, I'm a Likud supporter and I have grown tired of defending you, because you no longer defend me," said Ori Nachman, a longtime Likud activist. "I say enough. We don't want this corruption anymore. Bibi, get up and give us a new leader." 

The Israel Police confirmed on Thursday that the prime minister is suspected of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Netanyahu's bureau rejected the allegations on Thursday, calling them "unfounded claims."

Harow, Netanyahu's former 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, Harow 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.