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Protesters turn out in tens of thousands for Netanyahu anti-corruption march

Protesters gather in anti-corruption "March of Shame" against Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on Saturday, December 2, 2018
Darren Cohen
The protest has taken place every Saturday, usually near the home of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Tel Aviv in central Israel Saturday night to express their public disdain and outrage at the government’s recent attempt to push through a law that opponents say is designed to help Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu survive an ongoing police investigation.

In an unprecedented demonstration of dissent, Netanyahu opponents joined hands under the banner of the "March of Shame 2017" and called for an end to government corruption. Chants of “Bibi is a disgrace” and “The people demand a legal state” echoed down Tel Aviv’s central Rothschild Boulevard.

The protest organized by the leaders of weekly anti-corruption demonstrations in Petah Tikva near Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s home, witnessed a far higher turnout than was expected and was the first to take place in the bustling metropolis of Tel Aviv. Channel 10 estimated approximately 20,000 protesters in attendance.

"We have been doing this every single Saturday," one demonstrator Simha Latman told i24NEWS, joined by her husband, from southern Israel. "We’re protesting our prime minister’s corruption. We want the truth to be revealed."

"The disabled have been protesting for so long to raise their salaries, and he continuously says there’s no money, meanwhile he’s funding new settlements every month,” she adds. "He does whatever he likes because he is the prime minister."

Ana Nissan/i24NEWS

The rally came as the Israeli government continues to push through a bill that will alter the current practice of an inquiry. If passed, it could spare the Israeli premier indictment over the several corruption probes against him, as it bars police from recommending charges against him. Further, this "anti-police law" would shield him from a barrage of criticism from the public.

The bill is being fast-tracked by the government and was rushed through a parliamentary preparatory committee Monday hours before the house voted for it by 46 votes to 37.

MK opposition leader Isaac Herzog made a statement in response to the demonstration against his political rival.

"The protest and frustration emanated from all levels of the people," he remarked in the statement, originally in Hebrew. "Not from professional politicians, but from the harsh feeling of unfairness, disgusted with corruption and severe moral opposition to a law hat would be tailored to one man."

He then called on the crowd of "thousands and thousands of thousands like him" to protest the bill come Monday and support the opposition committee fighting the bill, rallying for a "great protest to save Israeli democracy."

Darren Cohen

Saturday night's demonstration saw protesters young and old and from a multitude of religious and political backgrounds.

The legislation is “a blatant attack on democracy and the right of the electorate to hold their elected figures to account,” declared one attendee, 27-year-old Labor activist and British expat Darren Cohen.

“We understand that the law, which is currently being pushed through the Knesset, is for the benefit of one individual,” Meretz activist Lior Barbash, 31, told i24NEWS, “We understand and realize that this is a direct blow to democracy and the institutions of our country.”

The Israeli leader at the center of scrutiny has been under investigation in a series of probes involving alleged financial corruption, including into an alleged 'quid pro quo' arrangement between Netanyahu and Israeli media mogul Arnon "Noni" Mozes, which would have provided benefit to Mozes' Yedioth Ahronot newspaper in exchange for more favorable coverage for the premier.

The investigations have stirred Israeli politics and led to speculation over whether Netanyahu will eventually be forced to step down.

Netanyahu, for his part, has adamantly denied any wrongdoing.

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