Protesters call for PM to resign after Netanyahu derides anti-corruption demos

Hundreds gather near attorney general’s home in Petah Tikva in latest weekly demonstration calling for premier’s indictment

Illustrative: Demonstrators protest near the home of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in Petah Tikva on August 5, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Illustrative: Demonstrators protest near the home of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in Petah Tikva on August 5, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Hundreds of protesters demonstrated on Saturday evening near Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s home in Petah Tikva in the latest weekly protest calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be indicted in a pair of corruption cases.

Saturday’s gathering was the second to take place since the High Court of Justice ruled the demonstrations could continue with limited numbers after police blocked a Saturday night protest on August 19 and arrested two of its leaders.

This is the 41st week protests have taken place. Demonstrators held up signs reading “Our democracy is sinking” and another pictured Mandelblit as a rabbit.

The demonstration came days after Netanyahu said the weekly events were part of an undemocratic effort to topple him “at any cost.”

In light of the High Court ruling, which limited the protests to 500 people, police deployed drones to monitor the crowd size in order to prove the protesters weren’t adhering to the court decision after last week’s demonstration grew to some 2,000 people, Channel 2 reported.

In addition to the protest in Petah Tikva, some 150 people demonstrated against Netanyahu near the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, the Ynet news site reported.

At a Likud party rally on Wednesday, Netanyahu issued a seething attack on the media, accusing the press of playing up a pair of corruption investigations against him in an effort to end his premiership.

“The fake news industry is at its peak, and the goal of the protests is to indict me at any cost,” he told the crowd of rowdy Likud supporters at a rally near Ben Gurion Airport. Estimates put the crowd at 2,000-3,000.

“They cover enthusiastically [and] without end the left-wing protests every week,” he said. “The same protests whose goal is to apply improper pressure in order that an indictment will be filed at any cost.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a Likud party rally in Airport City on August 30, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a Likud party rally in Airport City on August 30, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The prime minister also said the protests showed the demonstrators’ contempt for democracy.

“They don’t only despise us,” he said. “They despise something much deeper: They despise the choice of the people and they despise the democracy in whose name they protest.

“They are doing everything possible to harm me and my wife because they think that if they topple me and her they will topple us, the Likud, the national camp — and to this end, all means are kosher.”

“Who finances and who organizes the left-wing demonstrations [near Mandelblit’s home] in Petah Tikva? The [media] is turning the protest leaders into ‘knights of the rule of law.’ What knights? What law?” he said, before laying into two of the leaders of the protests, aspiring politician Eldad Yaniv and former caretaker at the Prime Minister’s Residence Menny Naftali.

Prior to the start of Saturday evening’s protest, Yaniv called on the public to come demonstrate in Petah Tikva, while Naftali said he believed the protest would be larger than last week’s.

Menny Naftali and Eldad Yaniv arrive for a court hearing at the Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court on August 20, 2017. (Roy Alima/Flash90)

The demonstrations swelled in size last month after Netanyahu’s former chief of staff Ari Harow agreed to turn state’s witness in the corruption investigations involving the premier, which are known as Case 1000 and Case 2000.

In Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife Sara are suspected of receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, most notably hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.

Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes that would have seen the prime minister hobble a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing.

Despite Netanyahu’s criticism of the protests, they have grown in size in recent weeks amid developments in the corruption cases, and Mandelblit, the attorney general, said Tuesday they are entirely legitimate and protected by freedom of expression.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara arrive to the Magistrates Court in Tel Aviv to a court hearing against journalist Igal Sarna on March 14, 2017. (Moti Kimchi/Pool)

In addition to the corruption cases involving the prime minister, Channel 2 reported Friday that Mandeblit is expected to recommend indicting Netanyahu’s wife Sara Netanyahu for diverting public funds for her private housekeeping expenses.

Sources close to the investigation told the television channel that Mandelblit will likely make the announcement sometime over the next two weeks.

Following the report, Channel 2 reported Saturday that Sara Netanyahu took and passed a private lie detector test ahead of her expected indictment in a bid to get backing for her version of the events.

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