First Published: 2018-02-16

Thousands protest corruption in Tel Aviv amid PM indictment call
Several thousand people attend rally calling for Netanyahu to step down following police recommendation for his indictment for bribery, fraud.
Middle East Online

Crowd held banners reading 'Crime Minister' and 'Bye bye Bibi'

TEL AVIV - Thousands of Israelis marched against corruption in Tel Aviv on Friday, in the first protest since police recommended that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted for graft.

Several thousand people gathered for the protest calling on Netanyahu to step down, carrying banners reading 'Crime Minister' and 'Bye bye Bibi' -- a common nickname for the Israeli leader.

The crowd chanted "Liar! Liar!" when one speaker sarcastically repeated Netanyahu's common refrain about the allegations that "there will be nothing because there is nothing".

On Tuesday, police called for Netanyahu, 68, to be indicted for bribery, fraud and breach of public trust, in the biggest challenge yet to the right-wing premier's long tenure in power.

He has repeatedly denied the allegations, which he says are politically motivated, and has rejected calls to step down.

Netanyahu's partners in his coalition government have so far stood by him, and a prime minister facing such police recommendations or who has been formally charged is not obliged to resign.

"Here in this square we pledge to fight you until you resign," activist Abi Binyamin told the crowd on Friday.

"We shall keep coming here for as long as it takes."

Netanyahu is being investigated over suspicions that he and his family received expensive gifts from Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer.

Between 2007 and 2016 he allegedly received cigars, champagne, jewellery and other goods estimated to be worth around one million shekels (229,000 euros, $283,000).

In a second unrelated case he is accused of trying to reach an agreement with a newspaper for favourable coverage in exchange for weakening a competitor.

Netanyahu, who has served more than a decade as prime minister in two stints, has accused the police and media of a witch hunt.

The police recommendation has now been handed over to the attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, who is not obliged to act on it.

Weekly anti-corruption protests have been taking place in Tel Aviv for months.

"We are fighting for the future of this country, for the sake of our children," Efrat Shechter, 50, said.

"What has been happening in recent years is destroying our future."

Colette Avital, a former MP for the left-wing Labour party, said the march was about more than just Netanyahu.

"(It is) against the fact that the ruling government allows itself to behave like this," she said.

Three polls published since Tuesday have found Israelis fairly evenly split -- with between 45 percent and 50 percent saying Netanyahu should either resign or temporarily step aside, while between 40 percent and 43 percent think he should stay.

A poll in the Maariv newspaper on Friday found 48 percent of Israelis think he is either somewhat corrupt or very corrupt.


Israel confirms it hit suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007

Syrian rebels reach evacuation deal in Eastern Ghouta town

Abbas calls US ambassador to Israel 'son of a dog'

UN says Turkey security measures 'curtail human rights'

'Saudization' taking its toll on salesmen

American mother trapped in Syria’s Ghouta calls out Trump

Syria workers say French firm abandoned them to jihadists

Grim Nowruz for Kurds fleeing Afrin

Sarkozy back in custody for second day of questioning

Netanyahu says African migrants threaten Jewish majority

US Senate votes on involvement in Yemen war as Saudi prince visits

What a ‘limited strike’ against Syria’s Assad might mean

Natural gas in eastern Mediterranean fuels increasing tensions

Erdogan tells US to stop ‘deceiving’, start helping on Syria

IS controls Damascus district in surprise attack

French ex-president held over Libya financing allegations

NGO says Israeli army violating Palestinian minors’ rights

Human rights chief slams Security Council for inaction on Syria

US warns Turkey over civilians caught in Syria assault

Saudi crown prince keen to cement ties with US

Erdogan vows to expand Syria op to other Kurdish-held areas

Kurdish envoy accuses foreign powers of ignoring Turkish war crimes

Morocco authorities vow to close Jerada's abandoned mines

Israeli soldier sees manslaughter sentence slashed

Turkey insists no plans to remain in Afrin

Cairo voters show unwavering support for native son Sisi

Forum in Jordan explores new teaching techniques

Gaza Strip woes receive renewed attention but no fix is expected

Kurds, Syrian opposition condemn Afrin looting

36 jihadists killed in Egypt’s Sinai

Israel arrests French consulate worker for gun smuggling

Pro-Turkish forces loot Afrin

Israel prepares to demolish Jerusalem attacker's home

Saudi crown prince says his country to seek nuclear bomb if Iran does

Arab women artists in diaspora focus on identity and loss

Tunisia’s Central Bank targets inflation but may hurt growth prospects

Libya’s health system reflects a larger humanitarian crisis

Israel blasts Gaza underground tunnel

Abu Dhabi awards France's Total stakes in oil concessions

Erdogan says Afrin city centre under ‘total’ control

Egypt tries to contain Sudan but challenges, suspicions remain

US defence secretary presses Oman on Iran weapons smuggling

Syrian regime retakes two towns from Ghouta rebels

Hamas shutters mobile firm after Gaza attack on PM

Israel punishes family members of West Bank attacker