An estimated 40,000 demonstrators poured into Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square Saturday evening to take part in a rally calling for a change in government.
The plaza was filled with posters supporting the left-wing Meretz party and the center-left Zionist Union.
Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan headlined the speakers who took to the podium to address the teeming crowd. Having unleashed harsh criticism of the Netanyahu administration in an interview aired Friday, Dagan again attacked the prime minister, saying “we have a leader who fights only one campaign — the campaign for his own political survival.”
“In the name of this war, he is dragging us down to a bi-national state and to the end of the Zionist dream,” the former spy chief, 70, said of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Dagan, who seemed close to tears at times and who stressed that he had no personal political ambitions, said he did not fear Israel’s enemies, but “I fear our leadership” which had “lost its way” and was characterized by “hesitancy and indecisiveness.”
Israel had “never been more stuck than in the six years” of Netanyahu’s prime ministership, “with no progress toward a better future,” Dagan charged.
Michal Kastan Keidar, widow of an officer killed in last summer’s Operation Protective Edge, also took to the stage and castigated Netanyahu for what she called his blindness to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Yes, Mr. Prime Minister, what’s important is life itself, but it’s impossible to speak all the time about Iran and to turn a blind eye to the bloody conflict with the Palestinians which costs us so much blood,” she said.
In a statement responding to Dagan and the rally in general, the Likud party said that “the rally in Tel Aviv is part of a campaign orchestrated by the left [and] funded by millions of dollars from abroad. The aim is to change the nationalist Likud government headed by Netanyahu with a left wing government headed by [Tzipi] Livni and [Isaac Herzog] which will be supported by the Arab parties.”
It noted that despite what it called Dagan’s left wing ideology, the Mossad chief requested to extend his service under Netanyahu. The party asserted that the public knows that only a Netanyahu government can prevent a nuclear Iran and the establishment of a “terror state” in the West Bank.
The Tel Aviv municipality closed major streets leading to the central plaza in the lead up to the rally titled “Israel wants change.” Those attending the event were advised to arrive by public transportation.
Organizers expected a large turnout of “citizens who will paint Rabin Square with hundreds of thousands of hands and demand to change the government and to change the country’s priorities,” Ynet reported.
The rally comes just a week and a half before the country goes to the polls on March 17. Next Saturday, a pro-Netanyahu rally is planned for the same square.