Thousands of Israelis from across the country, including retirees, religious families with young children, settler youth and new immigrants from France, gathered at the Tel Aviv Museum Square across from the IDF’s Kirya military headquarters on Tuesday night to show support for embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The crowd was bussed by the Likud Party to the demonstration, which was held under the banner “To safeguard the country and stop the coup.”While the rally started 30 minutes later than planned, the crowd didn’t care: “King Bibi, King of Israel” the demonstrators chanted. “Leftist traitors hate the flag,” “The Prosecutor’s Office are terrorists” and “The media is out to get our Bibi” others screamed. While Netanyahu pushed the 55 MKs in his political bloc to attend the rally, the only MKs present were Culture Minister Miri Regev and Likud faction chairman Miki Zohar. The prime minister pleaded with the public to attend in public speeches, meetings with mayors and on social media, but he himself decided not to even address the crowd by video.“We want to make our voice heard, and we are expressing legitimate and justified protest,” Regev said. “This protest sends the message that the rule of law is not above the law. The law must be equal for all, and there cannot be one rule for one man and different rules for another.”
Regev said only the public and not the legal establishment can choose who will serve as prime minister.“You have the strongest ammunition – your ballot,” she told the crowd.But even Regev criticized signs that went too far in criticizing Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit, the state prosecution and police. She told the protesters to take down the provocative signs, suggesting “maybe someone planted them.”Many protesters declined to speak to The Jerusalem Post, saying that the media was the reason why Netanyahu was being investigated. But Esther Bokobza told the Post that Netanyahu is the only man who can stand up to Israel’s enemies.“He is someone who has an important and charismatic character,” said Bokobza, who made aliyah from France four years ago. “He was able to go tête-à-tête with Obama, and Obama wasn’t an easy man. No matter what you say about Bibi, that he took presents, etc. – who hasn’t done that? It doesn’t matter what he took. Who doesn’t have faults?
We have worked so hard for our state, and we are surrounded by enemies. Bibi has the strength to keep us together, and we need him. He spent 10 years growing the country. He is our light. We all think this way.”Chaviva Melloul from Beit Shemesh, who had adorned herself with pro-Netanyahu stickers, echoed Bokobza.“We love Bibi, but the media doesn’t like him,” she said. “We waited thousands of years for our country, and the media is just chasing him!”
The heads of the right-wing Women in Green movement, Yehudit Katsover and Nadia Matar, told their members they were attending the rally in order to protect the Land of Israel.“We are demonstrating because we understand that it is not just Benjamin Netanyahu’s private affairs but the concern of the entire Right camp,” the two said in a message to their followers. “The Left knew well enough how to ignore deeds far worse than those attributed to Netanyahu when it concerned leftist leaders over the years. In Netanyahu’s case, the energy and the efforts invested in bringing him down, exaggerating every small suspicion as an unforgivable act, all stems from the desire to see the Right camp defeated and the Left returned to power.”During the rally, incoming rocket sirens were activated in Sderot, a Likud stronghold. And while many had likely made their way to Tel Aviv from Sderot, they were too busy showing their support for Netanyahu to mind the two rockets fired toward their homes from the Gaza Strip.