Tens of Thousands of Israelis Protest Against Netanyahu in Second March of Shame

The protest march targeting corruption in the government took place as the PM headed to Europe for a series of key meetings

Thousands of anti-Netanyahu protesters hit Israeli streets for second week running for "March of Shame" in Tel Aviv, Dec 9, 2017
Tomer Appelbaum

Tens of thousands of Israelis took to the streets of Tel Aviv on Saturday night to protest against corruption in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government. 

>> Protesters are rising up against Netanyahu - and testing the limits of Israel's democracy <<

The "March of Shame" protest came as Netanyahu headed to Europe for meetings in France on Sunday and at the European Union headquarters in Brussels on Monday.

Demonstrators on Tel Aviv's Rotschild Boulevard held signs reading, "Out with the corrupt!" and "Not leftist, not rightist, but honest!" Others read, "Being a pig isn't kosher" and "Bibi go home."

Hundreds of protesters against corruption gathered in Haifa as well, with signs reading "Democracy isn't a suggestion" and "Shame on you."

An altercation broke out towards the end of the demonstration when a small group of anarchists carrying signs supporting a boycott of Israel tried to join the protest. Anti-corruption demonstrators verbally attacked the group and the police had to intervene after protesters started shoving them and tore signs supportive of the BDS movement.

Those that partook in the protest were angered by a new bill that would have prevented police from publicizing recommendations on indictments. The controversial bill was widely believed to have been drafted to protect Netanyahu, who is currently under investigation in two high-profile corruption scandals, by keeping the public in the dark.

Thousands of anti-Netanyahu protesters hit Israeli streets for second week running for "March of Shame" in Tel Aviv, Dec 9, 2017
Tomer Appelbaum

The first investigation involves allegations that he received lavish gifts from wealthy businessmen, and the second involves allegations that he negotiated a deal with a newspaper owner for more favorable coverage.

At last week's rally, some 30,000 protesters marched along Rothschild Boulevard to Habima Square, many of them calling for Netanyahu to be locked up.

A day after the rally, clearly bowing to public pressure, Netanyahu announced that he had asked lawmakers to devise a new draft of the bill so that it would not apply to the ongoing investigations against him.

Police forced to intervene after anti-Netanyahu protesters stop pro-BDS anarchists from joining Tel Aviv protest
Hagar Shezaf

For the past year, every Saturday night, demonstrations have gathered in Petah Tikva, the hometown of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, to protest what they perceived to be his foot-dragging in investigating allegations against Netanyahu. These protests, which initially included a few dozen demonstrators, expanded over time, at their peak drawing several thousand.  

The two main leaders of the protest movement are Eldad Yaniv, a well-known anti-corruption crusader, and Meni Naftali, the former chief caretaker of the prime minister’s residence who rose to fame after suing Sara Netanyahu, the prime minister’s wife, for abusive behavior toward him and other household staff. Naftali won the case and also prevailed in an appeal.

Yaniv and Naftali decided to move the protests to a more central location in Tel Aviv last week because of the huge public outcry over the so-called “Recommendations Law.” The protestors began their march, symbolically, outside Independence Hall, where Israel’s Declaration of Independence was first read.  The organizers announced that the weekly protests will be moved on a permanent basis from Petah Tikva to Tel Aviv.

Concerns have been expressed that fewer demonstrators will show up this Saturday night – not only because Netanyahu agreed to amend the controversial bill, which had been a key factor behind the huge turnout last week, but also because of the tensions flaring in recent days in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza over the Trump administration’s decision to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel. Accusing Netanyahu of “heating up the turf” in order divert attention from the corruption scandals threatening his reign, Yaniv urged supporters over the weekend, in a widely shared Facebook post, to show up in force Saturday night.