Hundreds of Israelis took to the streets on Saturday in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and across the country, some in show of support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others calling on him to resign after his indictment for bribery and fraud and breach of trust on Thursday.
Other, smaller demonstrations took place near the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem, near Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit's home in Petah Tikva and in the Haifa suburb of Kiryat Bialik.
"We told Netanyahu even when there were only 50 people here, 'You’ll lose this war,'" said Haim Shadmi, one of the organizers of the Tel Aviv demonstration.
Yishai Hadas, who has been demonstrating at the square every week for months, said that the day Netanyahu leaves offices, "this project will end, and then we’ll see what happens next. At the moment, we’re here to say what’s self-evident – a man indicted on three such counts shouldn’t continue in office."
"The fact that the old law is terrible is because nobody ever imagined this possibility," he added, referring to the fact that the law requires the prime minister to resign only if he is convicted.
Democratic Union lawmaker Stav Shaffir urged Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan party not to form a government with Netanyahu. "Corrupt people should go home, not to the President’s Residence or the Prime Minister’s Office," she said.
- Gantz says Netanyahu 'risks igniting civil war,' calls on Likud members to speak out
- Senior Likud lawmaker calls for leadership race: Netanyahu can't form government
- Day after Netanyahu's indictment, Likud is in panic and uncertain what should be the next move
She also urged President Reuven Rivlin to announce that he will not task Netanyahu with forming a government.
Even though both Netanyahu and Gantz, who were nominated by the president, failed at forming a coalition following Israel's September 17 election, if any of them – or any other Knesset member – is backed by a majority of lawmakers within the next couple of weeks, they would get another chance at completing the task.
Former Meretz lawmaker Esawi Freige said Netanyahu should see "how masses of people are going out into the squares to yell, 'Netanyahu go home.'"
At the end of the demonstration, some 200 people marched to Metzudat Ze’ev, the Tel Aviv headquarters of Netanyahu’s Likud party. One threw tomatoes at a poster of Netanyahu on the front of the building, while others chanted, "Netanyahu, you’re corrupt, you have no mandate" and "Bibi, resign."
In Petah Tikva’s Goren Square, dozens of Netanyahu opponents chanted "Go home!"
Sigalit Kesler, one of the organizers of the anti-Netanyahu protests that have been taking place there for months, said, "This day is important not only for my friends in Goren Square, but for the entire country."
She also urged Kahol Lavan's leadership to "wake up," adding, "That’s what they’re there for. That’s what we elected them for."
In Kiryat Bialik, in Israel's north, around 300 Netanyahu supporters chanted "Investigate the investigators," "Shai Nitzan is a criminal" and "Liat Ben Ari, resign." Nitzan is the state prosecutor, while Ben Ari was the lead prosecutor working on the Netanyahu cases.
The demonstrators bore signs with slogans like "Israel is strong with Netanyahu."
In Jerusalem, around 200 Netanyahu supporters demonstrated near his official residence on Balfour Street. The slogans on their signs read "You’ll never walk alone," "Mendelblit, we won’t forget and won’t forgive" and "No to a coup."
A few dozen people demanding that Netanyahu resign stood opposite them, and police forces formed a human barrier between the two groups.
Singer Ariel Zilber, who attended the pro-Netanyahu demonstration in Jerusalem, said he came because Netanyahu "mustn’t resign."
"We’ll beat them," he added, referring to the police and prosecution. "This is a gang of people who have an agenda. It’s all a bluff and a lie. For 20 years they've been persecuting him and haven’t found anything."