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Several thousand attend protests against PM in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Caesaria

Turnout remains lower than during the height of summer; Netanyahu’s son posts tweet seemingly comparing Black Flag protest movement to Islamic State

People protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, on November 28, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
People protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, on November 28, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Several thousand people took part in weekly protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Saturday evening, calling for his resignation for the 23rd week.

In Jerusalem, some 2,000 were reported to be demonstrating outside the Prime Minister’s Residence. In Tel Aviv, several hundred protested at Rabin Square. A few hundred also rallied outside the prime minister’s private residence in Caesarea.

Protesters also gathered in small rallies at plazas, intersections and overpasses throughout the country, as they have every Saturday for the past few months.

Some clashes were reported between protesters and right-wing counter-protesters in Ness Ziona, south of Tel Aviv, with the premier’s supporters calling his opponents “left-wing traitors.” Police broke up the confrontation.

Caesarea also saw supporters of the prime minister lob insults at the protesters and accuse them of treason.

Recent weeks have seen a drop-off in attendance at the nation-wide protests, whether due to the colder and wetter weather or due to a dip in enthusiasm, and Saturday’s events appeared to continue that trend.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s son Yair, known for his combative and controversial social media activity, on Saturday appeared to compare the Black Flag movement — one of the main protest groups against his father — to the Islamic State terror group.

“I’ve realized why the convoys of the Black Flags are familiar to me,” he said, sharing a Likud campaign video from 2015 that featured supposed members of Islamic State waving the organization’s black flag as they drove toward Jerusalem. That ad itself ignited controversy at the time for suggesting IS were supporters of the Zionist Union — an alliance of parties that was Netanyahu’s chief rival in the election that year.

The younger Netanyahu deleted the post some two hours after uploading it.

Earlier on Saturday convoys of vehicles made their way to Jerusalem to protest in front of the High Court of Justice and demand the formation of a state commission of inquiry that would probe the so-called submarine affair.

The affair, also known as Case 3000, revolves around allegations of a massive bribery scheme in the multibillion-shekel state purchase of the naval vessels from German shipbuilder Thyssenkrupp. The case has already resulted in indictments against several close associates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as high-ranking military officials, but the premier has not been accused by authorities of wrongdoing.

However, many former security officials have spoken out against Netanyahu’s conduct in the affair, and it has become a rallying cry for critics of the prime minister who believe he is wholly corrupt.

On Saturday, the convoys set off from Caesaria near Netanyahu’s private residence and Bilu junction near Rehovot, with vehicles bearing Israeli flags and makeshift submarine and F-35 models on top of the cars. Over 100 vehicles took part, according to Haaretz.

Former Shin Bet security service chief Ami Ayalon gave an address in Caesaria before the vehicles began making their way to Jerusalem, criticizing Netanyahu’s handling of state affairs and the coronavirus response.

באנו להלחם על הדמוקרטיה הישראלית. על מדינת ישראל. על החברה. חבורת הלוחמים של השיירה הצפונית של #חקירה_עכשיו בדרך לבלפור!

Posted by ‎הצוללות – חקירה עכשיו‎ on Friday, November 27, 2020

 

Addressing Netanyahu, he said, “the way you manage Israel’s foreign policy, the economy, the coronavirus crisis while giving more weight to personal political considerations over state considerations… harms the security of the State of Israel.”

Retired general Amiram Levin — who at various times headed the IDF Northern Command, commanded the elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit, and served as deputy director of the Mossad spy agency — also spoke at the rally in Caesaria and lashed out at the PM as well as Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who last week announced that he would form a government committee to investigate the submarine affair.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz visits the Jerusalem Municipality on November 10, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“The person who continues to sell us this slogan ‘Israel before everything’ once again bows down and puts Bibi [Netanyahu] and himself first. He set up a mock committee, devoid of powers; a committee that is prevented in advance from investigating the sale of the submarines,” Levin was quoted as saying by the Hebrew-language Walla news site.

Gantz’s move to set up the government commission of inquiry, which will operate under the auspices of the Defense Ministry, inflamed tensions with Netanyahu and Likud, and talk of new elections abounds.

The submarine scandal involves suspicions Israeli officials were bribed to push for the acquisitions of naval vessels and submarines from Thyssenkrup. It also involves the sale of two Dolphin-class submarines and two anti-submarine warships by Germany to Egypt, allegedly approved by Netanyahu without consulting or notifying the Defense Ministry, then led by Moshe Ya’alon. Then-IDF chief of staff Gantz was also kept out of the loop.

Critics and rivals of Netanyahu allege he had a possible conflict ‎of ‎interest surrounding the massive deal for the vessels.

On Thursday, ex-Mossad director Tamir Pardo filed an affidavit to the High Court of Justice as part of a petition seeking a probe into the submarine affair, in which he lashed out at Netanyahu for keeping top defense officials in the dark on the sale of ships to Egypt. The behavior is “unacceptable, extremely unreasonable” and requires a state commission of inquiry, Pardo wrote.

Pardo said the decision to keep the approval under wraps harmed Israel’s security. “I’ve never encountered this sort of concealment from the most senior defense officials in the State of Israel, and the matter demands explanation,” writes Pardo.

A number of other Israelis tied to the defense establishment also filed affidavits alleging concerns about the decision-making surrounding the affair, Israel’s Channel 13 reported Friday night.

In October, the state prosecution told the High Court that it believes there is no justification to open a criminal probe into Netanyahu over the submarine affair.

Netanyahu is already on trial for fraud and breach of trust in three other cases, and bribery in one of them. He denies any wrongdoing and claims to be a victim of an attempted political coup involving the police, prosecutors, left-wing opposition and the media.

Gantz’s office said last week that the findings of the committee will be presented within four months and will be shared with “full public transparency.”

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