Several thousand pro-Likud protesters took to the streets in Tel Aviv in support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who faces legal proceedings in three corruption cases.
The protest, at the Tel Aviv Museum, was scheduled following Netanyahu's indictment for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
The slogan of the demonstration, "Let's save the state from the coup d'état," refers to a speech by Netanyahu after the indictment was made official, when he decried the "attempted coup" against an acting prime minister.
Culture Minister Miri Regev, who was rumored not to be attending the event, did show up, as did a few other Likud lawmakers.
“The rule of law is not above the law,” Regev said at the rally. “With all due respect to the rule of law, they [law enforcement agencies] should be under scrutiny too.”
Miki Zohar, one of only a handful of elected representatives who came to the protest, told the crowd: “We don’t want to attack the rule of law, but strengthen law enforcement systems. How can we do it if we don’t criticize it and ask it to correct its wrongs?”
“We won’t let lies win over the truth,” added Zohar, a close ally of Netanyahu. “I tell the prime minister: Stay strong, because a massive part, if not most of the Israeli people, is behind you today.”
Demonstrators raised banners calling for the arrest and investigation of public prosecutors, including State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, and alleging the “police and prosecution are corrupt.” They chanted "The nation wants legal justice" and "Investigate Shai Nitzan."
Pinhas Cohen, who lives in the central city of Rishon Letzion, said he feels “Bibi has been persecuted for ten years… Others can do anything but Bibi can’t. I can’t stand what they’re doing to him.”
“I support him because ever since he’s been in power my life have been good,” said Rachel Levi from Tel Aviv. “What they’ve done to Bibi is disgusting… I really do think there’s nothing to the indictments against him.”
According to Levi, favorable media coverage, which Netanyahu had received in return for regulatory benefits according to the indictment in Case 4000, “is not bribery. I would want people to say good things about me too.”
Haifa resident Anat said that “the left’s envy” has led the police and prosecution to “frame” the prime minister. “We won’t let that happen,” she added.
Netanyahu has been relentlessly working over the past several days to convince supports to attend the rally, but his main obstacle has been Likud ministers and Knesset members, most of which didn't show up. Ahead of the rally, organizers feared the turn-out could be low.
Hundreds of thousands of text messages have been sent to Netanyahu supporters in recent days, coupled with an internet campaign.
Likud is not mentioned as one of the protest's organizers, but the funding – as well as the planning – comes from the ruling party. Other organizers include right-wing groups Regavim, Im Tirzu, Yisrael Sheli and others.
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