Thousands of people took part on Saturday evening in an anti-corruption rally in Tel Aviv for the seventh week in a row, with demonstrators calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign over graft allegations.
During Saturday’s protest, minor scuffles broke out between demonstrators and right-wing counter protesters, dozens of whom attended the rally, according to Hebrew media reports.
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In addition to the main demonstration in Tel Aviv, smaller scale anti-corruption protests were also held in Jerusalem, Haifa, and Afula, according to Haaretz.
This week’s protest came after Hadashot TV news earlier this week aired recordings of Netanyahu’s son Yair making disparaging comments about women during a night out at Tel Aviv strip joints with two friends, accompanied by his security guard and a driver.
In the tape, Netanyahu could also be heard trying to parlay, apparently in jest, a controversial gas deal worth billions of dollars to get cash for strippers from the son of gas tycoon Kobi Maimon.
In light of the recordings, protest organizer Eldad Yaniv said this week’s march would pass by Maimon’s Tel Aviv home to protest the 2016 gas deal, which critics have said would create a monopoly in the gas market and lead to higher prices for Israeli consumers.
Maimon is said to control a nearly 29 percent stake in the Tamar gas field through his stake in the Isramco Negev 2 partnership, a junior partner to Tamar and Delek.
Menny Naftali, another protest organizer and former caretaker at the Prime Minister’s Residence, criticized the prime minister over the contents of the recording of his son.
“I won’t talk about Yair Netanyahu because I will do damage if I do,” said Naftali, according to the Haaretz daily. “I have pity on these kids. The education you [Netanyahu] gave your children is what you are doing to this nation.”
Yair Netanyahu apologized for the recordings, while Netanyahu said he taught his children to “respect every woman.” Both have strongly criticized the release of the tapes, however, and the Netanyahu family said in response to the report that the recordings were part of a “witch hunt” meant to undermine the prime minister.
The recent Tel Aviv protests began after nearly a year of anti-corruption demonstrations held in Petah Tikva every Saturday evening near Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s home, with organizers accusing Israel’s top prosecutor of slow-walking the probes involving the prime minister.
A Hadashot news report last week said police have revised their plan to submit recommendations in the two corruption cases against Netanyahu in the first weeks of the year, with the investigation now expected to wrap up by Passover, at the end of March.
Netanyahu himself appears to expect police to recommend charges against him, and has sought to downplay the importance of any such recommendation, recently telling a rally of Likud party members that it was meaningless. (It is for state prosecutors, not police, to make a final decision on indictments.)
Netanyahu in the same speech, attacked law enforcement, alluding to unfair treatment at the hands of police.
The premier is a suspect in two corruption investigations, known as cases 1000 and 2000. In the first, 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 Mozes that would have seen the prime minister weaken a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.
He denies any wrongdoing.