Thousands of Israelis participated in a rally in support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Tel Aviv Museum Square last night. The protest was held under the banner “to protect the country and halt the coup,” against the recent decision by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit to indict the nation’s leader.
Pro-Netanyahu demonstrator Ron Nahmani told the Reuters news agency “All these inquiries, which take four years, were supported by the TV networks and they really influenced the results of the election. We protest against it and we think that judicial authorities and law enforcement should not interfere with politics.”
Contrary to organizers’ expectations of tens of thousands, only some fifteen thousand Israelis were in attendance. In addition, despite repeated calls by Netanyahu’s bureau for members of his ruling Likud party to participate in the show of support, the majority of the faction’s ministers and Knesset members were not present. The only senior Likud officials to come were Sports and Culture Minister Miri Regev and the Knesset Member Miki Zohar.
During a speech at the rally, Zohar claimed that Israel’s “law enforcement agencies have fallen victim to the (country’s political) Left,” and vowed not to “allow lies to prevail over the truth.” He further condemned the judicial prosecution and “twisted,” “tainted” and “false investigation” of Netanyahu as an attempt to “topple a prime minister.”
Minister Miri Regev told the gathering that “The rule of law is not above the law,” while calling for the state prosecutor and relevant police authorities to be prosecuted. She also stressed that while “there are judges in Jerusalem,” everyone – including those justices – are equal under the law. Regev emphasized that as opposed to the judicial system, ‘the citizens of Israel will determine who will lead this country.’
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit slammed the condemnation of Israeli police and justice system as “baseless slander.” While addressing a legal conference in the southern Israeli city of Eilat, Mandelblit said “I’m hearing expressions that have no place in the public discourse, which are aimed against the law enforcement establishment and against specific senior figures in it.” He said he was “hearing threats,” which he characterized as “shocking.”
Bodyguards have been assigned to two of the lead prosecutors on the Netanyahu probes due to a rise in pubic acrimony.
Blue and White Chairman Benny Gantz criticized the demonstration of support for his main political rival. While he insisted that “the right to demonstrate and freedom of speech are the oxygen of democracy,” the former IDF Chief of Staff said that “in a healthy democracy a Prime Minister would not organize a demonstration against the law enforcement system over which he presides.” Referencing recent rocket attacks from Gaza, Gantz went on to say that ‘instead of organizing demonstrations in Tel Aviv against the law enforcement agencies, Netanyahu would do well to focus on restoring security to the residents of southern Israel.’