Thousands gather at a mass rally in Tel Aviv "for democracy" and against controversial legislation, 2019..
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)
The leaders of the opposition vowed at a mass demonstration at the Tel Aviv Museum on Saturday night to stop Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from passing laws – which would allow him to avoid prosecution – that they warned would destroy Israeli democracy.
The rally – under the banner “Defensive Shield for Democracy” – according to organizers, attracted 100,000 people, many of whom brought signs bashing Netanyahu. The speakers promised the event would be the start of a protest movement across the country.
“Netanyahu is trying to turn Israel into one-man rule,” said Blue and White leader Benny Gantz. “We will not allow Israel to become the private property of a royal family or a sultanate.”
Addressing Netanyahu, Gantz said: “You spoke during the election about security. but now you’re dealing with your own personal security. You misled your voters by saying you wouldn’t pursue immunity. You didn’t get a mandate for that from the president or the people.”
Blue and White’s number two, Yair Lapid, said the opposition would not let Netanyahu become Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“We won’t let him destroy the country,” Lapid said. “It’s our country too. We’re not your subjects. We won’t let you destroy the Supreme Court. You’re not above the law. We won’t let you be a dictator. We will not allow it. What does he think? That’ll we stand silently by? That he’ll destroy the Supreme Court and we’ll stay silent?”
Lapid said he was looking for “decent people” in the coalition to prevent Netanyahu from moving the legislation forward and “save the country.”
The Likud responded that by mocking Lapid’s comparison of Netanyahu to Erdogan and the lack of democracy inside Lapid’s Blue and White Party.
“There are no primaries in Yesh Atid until 2045,” the Likud said. “When Yesh Atid MK Adi Kol opposed Lapid, she was thrown out of the party forever. Lapid is a joke.”
The other speakers at the event included Labor chairman Avi Gabbay, Hadash-Ta’al co-chairman Ayman Odeh, Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg, Druze IDF officer Amal Asad and attorney Sagit Peretz-Deri.
“Politicians in the Knesset are serving a prime minister who has been committing crimes for years,” Gabbay said.
Zandberg called the bills a disgrace, saying, “Bribery, fraud and breach of trust are the three reasons to suddenly come up with an immunity bill. This is personal. There is no one above the law. We do not have a king in Israel. We do not have a czar or a sultan.”
Odeh was initially denied the right to speak at the rally, but Zandberg interfered on his behalf.
“They are afraid of our unity,” Odeh said. “This should be a partnership of the brave.”
Balad boycotted the rally.
Asad said that “the Declaration of Independence did not leave any room for misunderstanding that the State of Israel is a Jewish and democratic state.”
“I always knew that there were people that were called traitors for betraying the country,” Asad said. “The Nation-State Law made me understand that the country, as well, can betray the people.”
Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon spoke directly to the members of the Likud, asking, “where is your courage to point out that the emperor is unclothed? It is not too late to tell Netanyahu that this is enough.”
“When Netanyahu is willing to burn the foundations of the country... We are here to tell him in the name of those that built our country: this is enough,” Ya’alon concluded.
“This rally is amazing, remember that it is not the last!” yelled Gantz as the national anthem “Hatikvah
” was played at the end of the rally. “There is hope!”
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