Pro- and anti-Netanyahu demonstrators stake out their territory and dig in for the long-haul, exchanging accusations and insults for what is sure to be a fractious and arduous trial.
By Paul Shindman, World Israel News
The corruption trial of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brought protesters out to the streets of Jerusalem, firing the initial salvos in a war of words that will swirl around a trial expected to take years, Israel Hayom reported Monday.
Police kept the two groups separated by about two kilometers with the pro-Netanyahu protesters allowed to gather outside the court, while the anti-Netanyahu demonstration was held near his official residence.
Although diametrically opposed politically, the two groups had several things in common as they both waved Israeli flags and for the most part ignored mandatory health guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Protesters on both sides said they were there to protect democracy as they stood elbow-to-elbow, some masked, some wearing none and many with the masks under their chins.
Organizers of the black flag movement decried Netanyahu as a criminally accused man who “is not our prime minister.”
“Netanyahu clings to the horns of the altar and drags that entire country to the dock of the accused. This is unacceptable,” said Eliad Shraga, head of the Movement for Quality Government in Israel. By “horns of the altar,” Shraga was making a biblical reference to Adonijah, who ran and held onto the horns of the altar in the Temple while he begged for mercy from King Solomon.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid party said, “We will be a protective wall for democracy. A protective wall for the State of Israel.” He noted that the anti-Netanyahu protesters had stood together exactly a year before the opening of the trial and vowed they would not let Netanyahu get immunity from prosecution.
In front of the Jerusalem District Court, the prime minister’s supporters held signs saying “Netanyahu is not alone.”
“We came to strengthen our prime minister,” said one of the pro-Netanyahu organizers, Itzik Zarka. “We are very angry…because there is a criminal indictment that the Left built in order to topple the government and take (away) democracy.”
“It’s a sad day for Israeli democracy. Prime Minister Netanyahu does not stand alone. We are all here to strengthen and support him,” Transportation Minister Miri Regev said outside the court.
Miki Zohar, chairman of Netanyahu’s Likud Party caucus, said that after a grueling and difficult day he was filled with pride over the prime minister’s “determination and faith in the righteousness of his path,” which “gives us the power to continue to fight for [him].”
“All we do is try and give him back a little for the tremendous sacrifice of him and his family for the future of the State of Israel. With the help of God the truth will win and we will win,” Zohar tweeted.