Rivlin praises anti-corruption rallies, gives nod to more
President says opposition to rampant government corruption cannot merely be expressed behind computer screens: 'There is no alternative for the city squares’; Netanyahu tells group of rabbis 'illegal' attempts to topple his right-wing government ‘shouldn't fool us', adds 'I expect your support.'
President Reuven Rivlin praised the weekly protests against government corruption Tuesday, saying that "we have excellent proof of the influence over the last few years of the internet on our reality,” while emphasizing the importance of protesting on Israel’s streets, rather than simply behind a computer screen.
“The summer protests and the for-and-against protests, that spread from Petah Tikva to Tel Aviv and to other street squares, and the MeToo campaign which is so important,” Rivlin said as he listed the examples of demonstrations which he said had had such a profound impact on society.
“Notice that all these examples went from words to actions and gathered traction in real life as well,” Rivlin said during a speech at the at the Dov Lautman Conference on Education for Democracy at the Open University.
“There is no alternative to the physical city squares. We must raise a generation that will be mindful that true democracy can begin online, but it can never replace the need and obligation to participate in significant debate and action."
Last Saturday night, thousands of Israelis took to the streets in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and other cities to protest government corruption in what has become a weekly occurrence in Tel Aviv.
Rivlin’s comments coincided with a request by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting with rabbis of the Religious Zionist camp for their support as he faces a string of corruption investigations.
"I expect of you, as rabbis and as right-wing community leaders, to offer me support," Netanyahu said, implying that the multiple investigations against him and the protests against him are merely a ploy to depose him from the the top spot.
"They are trying to illegally unseat me. I am facing persecution as a right wing leader," Netanyahu told the rabbis. “That’s why your support is so important and I want to express my appreciation.”
The prime minister further added that “we have not always been able to withstand these attempts. It succeeded in Israel once in 1992, this time we will make sure it doesn’t succeed.”
Attempting to rally the group of rabbis behind him, Netanyahu said that all those present were sufficiently experienced not to be fooled. “That is why I simply wanted to express my appreciation and ask that we strengthen each other. Thank you all,” he said, adding that he did not believe that he would be arraigned at the conclusion of the investigations against him and that he believed the attorney general will eventually decide not to compel him to stand trial.
Netanyahu also stressed that the probes against him did not stem from a personal dislike but from a political distaste for a right-wing leader. If he became more left-wing at the diplomatic level, he asserted, he would not be in the beleaguered in position in which he currently finds himself.
Despite Netanyahu’s exhortations and appeals, some of the rabbis elected to convey the message that “they were not in his pocket.” Others criticized Netanyahu for his latest appeal, accusing him of only ever evoking Religious Zionism in troublesome times and before elections after which he promptly demotes it to being last in his list of priorities.