For the first time right-wing government allies joined anti-corruption rallies in Israel. Netanyahu is being investigated in two corruption probes that could take down his government.
Several thousand Israelis protested against corruption in Tel Aviv for the fourth consecutive Saturday and called for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to step down.
In Jerusalem, hundreds of protesters also attended a right-wing anti-corruption rally with speakers including former Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon.
Corruption “is a greater danger than the Iranian threat, (Lebanese movement) Hezbollah, (Palestinian movement) Hamas or the Islamic State” group, Yaalon said. “Corruption is a disease, a disease that must be healed by electing and appointing honest people.”
It was the first time right-wing protesters in Jerusalem, some supporters of Netanyahu’s Likud Party, joined anti-corruption rallies that have so far been attended mostly by leftist and centrist critics of the right-wing prime minister.
Netanyahu has been questioned seven times in the past year in two corruption probes, which he says are part of a witch hunt carried out by his opponents.
If indicted, the four-term prime minister would be under pressure to resign or call new elections.
Corruption allegations swirling around Netanyahu
The first investigation, known as Case 1000, involves allegations that Netanyahu received cigars, champagne, cash and other gifts from Israeli-born Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer. The case also implicates his wife Sara and son Yair.
Netanyahu has said the gifts were tokens of friendship, and that no favors were done in exchange.
The second investigation, known as Case 2000, involves allegations that Netanyahu sought to negotiate positive coverage with the owner of Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper in exchange for cutting circulation of the pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom.
The free circulation Israel Hayom has become Israel’s largest newspaper and is backed by US casino magnate and major political donor Sheldon Adelson.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that the chance of an indictment against Netanyahu in Case 2000 increased after the prime minister’s former aide, Ari Harow, turned state’s witness.
Police have seized Harow’s phone, which had recordings of conversations between Netanyahu and Arnon Mozes, the publisher of Yedioth Ahronoth.
Several people close to Netanyahu have been implicated in other corruption scandals, including the so-called “Submarine Affair” and another involving the Communications Ministry and telecom giant Bezeq.
Anti-government protests drawing upwards of 10,000 protestors started in Tel Aviv earlier this monthafter Netanyahu’s allies drew up legislation that would block Israel’s police from publishing findings and issuing recommendations to the prosecutor’s office on indictments related to public officials.
Under pressure, Netanyahu was forced to make changes to the controversial draft bill critics say is designed to shield him from ongoing corruption investigations.