At least 8000 people gathered Tuesday evening in Tel Aviv to demonstrate against what they call an attempted "coup," as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is ramping up his attack on the state institutions responsible for his corruption indictment.
Netanyahu on last Thursday suffered a blow to his hopes of remaining in office after Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced his decision to indict the prime minister for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three corruption investigations into the veteran politician who has led the country for more than a decade.
The protesters at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art were seen carrying Israeli flags, signs proclaiming loyalty to the ruling Likud party and Netanyahu himself, reading. "You will never walk alone," and "We will not keep quiet while Netanyahu's blood being spilled.”
The main stage at the rally was filled with a plethora of banners and signs aimed against Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan. Some of the banners read "Investigate Shai Nitzan," and "Police without borders."
Earlier on Tuesday, senior members of the ruling Likud party have declined to attend the demonstration, despite being instructed by Netanyahu's bureau at the Likud headquarters in Tel Aviv to do so.
Among the few high-profile Likud officials who attended the rally were Culture Minister Miri Regev and Likud MK Miki Zohar.
Regev said the protest aimed to "convey a message that the rule of law isn't above the law."
"The essence of democracy is checks and balances. It seems some are pushing too hard and we must stop them," she added.
Zohar also lashed out at the justice system during his speech, saying it " fell victim to the media and the Israeli left."
"Left-wing officials concocted a conspiracy and the media, that is already aligned with them, became part of it. We cannot change the justice system, but we can fix it," said Zohar.
The event, held under the banner "protesting the coup," is being portrayed as a right-wing protest over the conduct of the State Prosecutor's Office in the lead up to the indictment, and is expected to be a show of force for the prime minister. Netanyahu referred to the indictment as an "attempted coup" shortly after it was announced.
Critics already deriding the move as sedition, with Blue and White Chairman Benny Gantz slamming the event. “In a healthy democracy, the prime minister does not organize demonstrations against the law enforcement system, which he is in charge of," said Gantz.
The former IDF chief, however, added that freedom to protest as well as freedom of speech are “the lifeblood of democracy.”
Other parties belonging to the prime minister's Knesset bloc, including the ultra-Orthodox parties and the far-right, also appear to have to avoided the demonstration.
Associated Press contribued to this report
First published: 18:07, 11.26.19