Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to deliver an opening speech at a right-wing rally in Tel Aviv on Sunday night, ahead of Israel’s March 17 elections.
The rally, planned by settler activists associated with the right-wing Jewish Home party, will be attended by party chairman Naftali Bennett as well. Bennett is also expected to address the crowd.
The organizers of the rally said they expect over 30,000 people to attend the event, the Walla news site reported.
Netanyahu, whose Likud party is currently trailing the Zionist Union by four seats in some polls, had for several days debated whether to address the rally-goers due to the expected presence of far-right activists on the one hand, and for fear of being painted as an opponent of a two-state solution on the other. Moreover, some believe his presence may do more to boost Bennett’s campaign than his own, as the two scrap over right-wing voters.
The event will be hosted in Rabin Square in central Tel Aviv, the site of a 40,000 person demonstration against Netanyahu last week.
But the left-wing Meretz party is working to keep the event from happening. Meretz Secretary-General Dror Morag and Knesset candidate Mosi Raz are expected to submit a petition to the Central Elections Committee Sunday, alleging that public funds are being used illegally for the rally.
The petition alleges that the Gush Etzion, Mount Hebron, and Jordan Valley regional councils in the West Bank are all using their funds to support to event, in violation of campaign regulations.
Bennett lauded the upcoming rally. “We won’t let despair prevail; this is going to be a strong showing by the real national union,” Bennett said, an apparent play on the “Zionist Union” party name adopted by Tzipi Livni and Isaac Herzog.
Last week’s anti-Netanyahu rally was attended by ex-Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who criticized the prime minister sharply and accused him of guiding the country down a dangerous path: “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 binational state and to the end of the Zionist dream,” the former spy chief said.
Along with Bennett, expected attendees for Sunday night’s rally include Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz and outspoken ultra-nationalist singer Amir Benayoun. Benayoun has come under criticism for producing several songs that were seen as highly offensive towards Arabs and US President Barack Obama.
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