Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures during his victory speech at Likud headquarters as his wife, Sara, looks on.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The Likud will begin weekly counter-protests against groups calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be indicted in a series of criminal investigations, MKs in the party announced on Sunday.
Protests held Saturday nights outside the Petah Tikva home of Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit in favor of Netanyahu’s indictment have been gathering steam in recent weeks. A protest held this past Saturday night was attended by new Labor leader Avi Gabbay for the first time.
Speaking at the gathering, Gabbay called on parties in Netanyahu’s coalition to quit the government over alleged corruption that is being investigated and initiate elections. He singled out the expensive gift affair and submarine scandal.
“I came here to support good Israelis from many parties who come here weekly to spread a message that they are no longer willing to accept corruption,” Gabbay told the crowd.
“Legal processes naturally take time and must be handled in courts, but there is behavior and there are actions that we can judge as wrong on an ethical level.”
The Likud responded that it was wrong of Gabbay to participate in a protest against the attorney-general and law enforcement officials. An official statement by the party accused Gabbay of being corrupt because he dealt with the Bezeq phone company when he was at the Finance Ministry and then went to work for the company.
The Likud MKs, led by coalition chairman David Bitan, decided to organize the counter-protests after Netanyahu asked Bitan and other MKs to defend him from false accusations of corruption.
Netanyahu told the politicians they should stop being nice while he is under attack and fight back on his behalf.
He also presented a series of statistics proving his lack of involvement in the two scandals.
“There is a political campaign of politicians and the press who have come together to topple me and the Likud government,” Netanyahu said.
“Behind the mud-slinging there are no facts. The opposite is true.”
Meanwhile, Gabbay met Sunday morning with MK Amir Peretz, his opponent in last week’s Labor leadership runoff.
It was their first meeting since Gabbay narrowly defeated Peretz, who vowed Sunday to support Gabbay and work with him.
“We decided to coordinate our efforts to topple the government and replace Netanyahu as soon as possible,” Peretz said after the meeting. “The country needs change, and I will do everything possible to make that change happen.”