Tens of thousands of people participated in the “March of Shame” Saturday night in Tel Aviv in protest of government corruption and what demonstrators said was foot-dragging in the investigations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The march, which made its way from Independence Hall on Rothschild Boulevard to Habima Square, was organized by the same people who hold the weekly protest outside the Petah Tikva home of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.
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Uzi Arad, the former national security advisor and once Netanyahu’s advisor, was the key speaker at the protest. “One of the things the Prophets of Israel knew how to admonish the people as well, and beyond that they knew how to courageously rebuke their kings when they were led astray,” Arad said.
“In a civilized country,” Arad asserted, “the government would have established a body to fight corruption… because otherwise corruption cannot be eradicated. Instead, the authorities are doing the complete opposite, which is very suspicious.”
“We’re here to demand what we deserve as citizens,” said Maj. Gen. (ret.) Amiram Levin. “We’re strong because we’re all proud to be Israeli. For 70 years, we built a magnificent society with achievements in almost every field. But in politics… we’re responsible because we didn’t realize we deserved more, and we’re worthy of a good leadership that represents the public, rather than shames it.”
“Corrupt governments don’t win, and it doesn’t matter how many tanks, planes and submarines they buy,” Levin continued. “Bibi, I tell you… history will not forgive you for what you’re doing today.”
Even before the protesters started marching, calls of “Money, government, underworld” were heard, alongside “Cowardly Bibi, you’re out of time.” Protesters also carried signs saying “We’re tired of the corrupted,” “The people demand legal justice,” “I’m a sourpuss, Bibi is rotten,” and “Mandelblit, you’re the problem, not the solution.”
According to march organizers, Eldad Yaniv and former PMO chief caretaker Meni Naftali, they had to escalate the protest in light of “the attempts to pass laws that enable corruption,” including the so-called recommendation bill—which bars police from releasing their recommendations on indictment—and the so-called French bill—which shields a sitting prime minister from police investigation.
“If we bring thousands of people out to the streets, some of (Finance Minister) Kahlon’s Knesset members will flee the plenum during the second and third readings out of shame,” Yaniv said in the invitation to the march. “And not just them, because there are normal people at the Knesset. The sane ones won’t vote for the mob laws borne out of the need to silence the police and save Bibi, and this is why these laws will collapse. If we go out to the streets in droves, they’ll listen to us. Come to protest and please bring everyone you know. Bring flags. Bring family and kids.”
During the protest, Yaniv, who claimed 50,000 people showed up to demonstrate, said: “Together we brought hope back to the State of Israel. We’re fighting for our country. Together we will send a corrupt prime minister hope.”
Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union), while not present at the rally, said that “The public has made its voice heard tonight in its masses near the place our independence was announced. The protest and the frustration came from the bottom, from all walks of life. This frustration is not because of the professional politicians, but because of the feeling the lack of fairness, the revulsion at the corruption, and the serious moral objection to a law tailor-made for one person.”
Herzog went on to say that “these thousands, and many thousands more like them, have come to thwart the recommendations bill (set to pass) this coming Monday.”
He called on the masses to “come and back us when we fight at the Knesset committees and at the plenum against it. Come and lay siege to the Knesset in a mass protest to save Israeli democracy.”
Some protesters started the demonstration at Goren Square in Petah Tivkah, where they’ve been protesting every Saturday night for over a year.
“We’re not leaving Petah Tikvah,” Meni Naftali said on his way to the protest. “We’re holding a large demonstration in Tel Aviv to explain to Netanyahu that this country is not his… in his eyes, he doesn’t serve the people—neither him nor his Knesset members. The government is not functioning, which is why we’re changing the government.”
Moran Azulay, Ahiya Raved and Yishai Porat contributed to this report by Ynet News