Thousands of right-wing activists attended a demonstration at Tel Aviv’s Habima Square on Thursday night for a demonstration that was originally supposed to be about the cellphone hacking scandal but ended up villainizing the police, state prosecution and the rest of the legal system.
The crowd booed when anyone seen as representing the legal system was mentioned. There were also signs attacking opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial.
“The prosecution and Supreme Court are the enemies of the state,” one sign declared.
Likud MK Israel Katz called for ending Netanyahu’s trial, at least temporarily, because police hacked the phones of the state’s witnesses against the Likud leader.
“Until the facts are clarified, I say stop all the processes,” Katz said.
Netanyahu had been expected to attend the protest, which would have been his first in seven years, but instead he addressed it with a tape-recorded message. Netanyahu told the crowd that he could not be there despite having heavily promoted the demonstration “for reasons I cannot reveal.”
“I am with you in heart and soul as we fight for civil rights, for the freedom of our citizens, for our democracy,” Netanyahu said. “I am with you, thousands of patriotic Zionists, who came to demand a state commission of inquiry to investigate the serious espionage affair in which the Israel Police spied on the people of Israel. The trust of the police is at a nadir. The investigators cannot investigate themselves. Only a state commission of inquiry could reveal the truth and ensure that such despicable acts will never happen again.”
As the rally was starting, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar told Channel 13 that such a commission was not on the way.
“In order to form a commission of inquiry, fundamental facts must be found,” Sa’ar said. “Currently, there is no such basis that justifies it. There was no cover-up. If there will be a basis for forming a commission in the findings, I will not hesitate to go for it.”
The Jerusalem District Court ordered the prosecution and the defense in the Netanyahu trial on Thursday night to be ready to present their arguments on Monday regarding the Pegasus spying scandal’s impact.
Earlier, Netanyahu attacked the legal system and press on Twitter.
“In Israel there is a real and painful problem of underrepresentation for the Right and Sephardim in the legal system, the press, academia and culture,” he wrote. “We started fixing, and with God’s help, we will finish the job.”
Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.