Anti-Netanyahu demo leaders released, opposition claims police overreach

Meni Naftali and Eldad Yaniv released by Petah Tikva court after calling Israelis to protest against corruption.

Eldad Yaniv in court  (photo credit: FACEBOOK)
Eldad Yaniv in court
(photo credit: FACEBOOK)
Left-wing lawmakers came out against police efforts to curb demonstrations calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be indicted, as the protests’ leaders were released Sunday after a night in jail in Petah Tikva.
The Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court released disgruntled former Prime Minister’s Residence superintendent Meni Naftali and anticorruption activist and failed Labor Knesset candidate Eldad Yaniv on the sole condition that they no longer call for the public to gather for an illegal protest via social media or by any other means.
Yaniv and Naftali had called on people to protest Saturday night via their Facebook pages, even though the police had revoked the permit the demonstrations had received for the previous 38 weeks. Despite police roadblocks, an estimated 2,000 people rallied near Attorney- General Avichai Mandelblit’s home.
Yaniv and Naftali were not required to post bail or stay out of Petah Tikva, the location of the protests, and therefore presented the ruling as a victory.
A police spokeswoman told Army Radio that the protests were stopped because they “lost all proportion. It’s paradoxical to protest for the law when you yourself are breaking the law. The repeated protests across from the attorney-general’s house are unfair and inappropriate pressure.”
On Sunday afternoon, Naftali announced on Facebook that his application to establish a nonprofit organization had been approved, and implored the public to donate so that he can continue “fighting more and more against corruption in this country” and to help whistle- blowers, as he calls himself.
“The war on corruption is for all of us, and for our children and future generations. The time has come to say ‘enough is enough,’ until justice comes to light,” Naftali wrote.
Naftali, who has spearheaded the protests, is joined by an informal coalition of prominent public figures who have organized demonstrations against Netanyahu in the past. They include Daphne Leef, a leader of the 2011 housing protests, Orly Bar-Lev, a leader of the 2015 natural gas protests, and Tomer Avital, the transparency crusader and blogger, who famously uncovered the Prime Minister’s Residence’s NIS 10,000 ice cream budget. Lawmakers from opposition parties also made appearances at the rallies.
Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On said the police was acting like “the private force of the system’s corrupt members. Instead of fighting corruption, it prevented a protest against it.”
There was no legal basis for Naftali and Yaniv’s arrest nor for police roadblocks on the way to the site of the protests, she said.
Zionist Union lawmaker Miki Rosenthal quipped on Twitter that people once mocked former Bnei Yehuda soccer team chairman Haim Barzel for saying “It cannot be that the police will take the law into its own hands,” adding: “Today that sounds slightly less crazy.”
According to Zionist Union MK Yoel Hasson, “There is a clear connection between the Likud’s dealings with the demonstrations in Petah Tikva and the police’s violent takeover of the protest.
“There has been deliberate meddling in police affairs, turning it into a political police,” Hasson added. “It’s important to remind everyone who forgot: Israel is a democratic state and demonstrations are allowed. Netanyahu and his messengers are creating a false impression as though demonstrations are illegal, and that is the real danger to Israeli democracy.”
Likud MK David Amsalem said: “My only discomfort with Meni Naftali and Eldad Yaniv’s arrest is that it didn’t happen a year ago.”
“Is the next stage protesting next to judges’ homes?” he asked on Israel Radio. “We need to check who is funding these demonstrations.”
The Likud wrote a lengthy post on its official Facebook page characterizing Naftali as a liar and a criminal.
“Anyone who looks at declarations and documents submitted several months ago to the Magistrate’s Court in Herzliya finds that this is a man who makes false statements and committed several crimes,” the post reads, listing falsehoods and omissions he allegedly made, such as alleging he finished high school when he didn’t, and changing his story several times as to why he stopped working in the Prime Minister’s Residence.
The Likud also implied that Naftali stole food and cleaning supplies from the residence, mentioned a complaint of sexual harassment by a woman who worked there and said he was fired from a past job because of physical violence.
Bayit Yehudi lawmaker Bezalel Smotrich claimed discrimination against right-wing protesters.
“For years right-wing activists have been kept away [from the scene of their actions] with the backing of the courts all the time, and no one opened their mouth or complained. Good thing there are left-wing activists in the world so that the courts will remember human rights,” Smotrich tweeted.