Israelis demonstrate for and against Netanyahu throughout country

As the nation braces for a bitter fight following Netanyahu’s indictment, Israelis took to the streets to voice their opinions.

By World Israel News and AP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s indictment has sharpened the battle lines in Israel’s already deadlocked political system and could test the loyalty of his right-wing allies, Israeli commentators said Friday.

Meanwhile, Israelis from different ends of the political spectrum took to the streets on Saturday evening to register either support for or outrage over Netanyahu.

Demonstrations and protests took place in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa, according to Times of Israel, just two days after the attorney general’s decision was announced regarding Netanyahu’s indictment in three corruption cases.

According to the Times, activists gathered in Tel Aviv at Habima Square, demanding Netanyahu step down. Simultaneously, supporters of the prime minister demonstrated in the Haifa suburb of Kiryat Bialik, calling for “justice” for the Israeli prime minister.

The serious corruption charges announced Thursday appear to have dashed already slim hopes for a unity government following September’s elections, paving the way for an unprecedented repeat vote in March, which will be the third in less than a year.

In an angry speech late Thursday, Netanyahu lashed out at investigators and vowed to fight on in the face of an “attempted coup.” But in a Facebook video posted Friday, he appeared at ease as he thanked supporters.

“This whole process will at the end of the day be decided in court and we will accept the court’s decision, there is no doubt about that,” he said. But he also said anyone in the police or the state prosecutor’s office who broke the law should also be held accountable.

His main opponent, Benny Gantz of the Blue and White party, called on him to “immediately resign” from all his Cabinet posts, citing a Supreme Court ruling that says indicted ministers cannot continue to hold office. Netanyahu also serves as minister of health, labor and Diaspora affairs, as well as acting minister of agriculture.

He is not legally required to step down as prime minister, but Netanyahu faces heavy pressure to do so, and it is unclear whether an indicted politician could be given the mandate to form a new government. Netanyahu has already failed to form a majority coalition of 61 seats in the 120-seat Knesset after two hard-fought elections this year.

“This will not be an election, it will be a civil war without arms,” columnist Amit Segal wrote in Israel’s Yediot Ahronot newspaper. “There is a broad constituency that believes what Netanyahu said yesterday, but it is far from being enough for anything close to victory.”

Netanyahu will be prosecuted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust stemming from three long-running corruption cases. He has denied any wrongdoing and accused the media, courts and law enforcement of waging a “witch hunt” against him.