Middle East

Israelis hold fourth weekly anti-corruption demonstration

Israelis take part in demonstration against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and government corruption in coastal city of Tel Aviv on Saturday (AFP)

Netanyahu (AFP/file photo)

Thousands of Israelis on Saturday held a demonstration in Tel Aviv for the fourth week running calling for the resignation of the "corrupt" government and its head.

In Jerusalem, hundreds also took part in a rally against graft headed by a rightwing former member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's staff.

Organiser Yoaz Hendel said the Jerusalem protest was "in support of law enforcement".

The protests came days after Netanyahu lashed out against police, accusing them of conducting an investigation against him aimed at ending his premiership.

Netanyahu has been questioned seven times in the past year in two corruption probes. The 68-year-old premier has not been formally implicated, but reports say police are set to recommend the justice ministry press charges.

Protesters in central Tel Aviv held signs calling for the resignation of the "crime minister" and other "corrupt" members of Netanyahu's government suspected of misconduct.

In Jerusalem, one sign read: "We deserve clean politics".

Hundreds in Kikar Tzion #Jerusalem#Israel gather for anti-corruption protest; praise the “national camp” including former Def Min ‘Bogie’ Yaalon and Yoaz Hendel and others, praise patriotism pic.twitter.com/h6VAt5b2v8

— Seth Frantzman (@sfrantzman) December 23, 2017

The rally in Jerusalem marked the first time Israelis on the right, among them voters for Netanyahu’s Likud party, gathered against corruption, with an eye toward Netanyahu, Haaretz reported on its website. The protest was initiated by a former communications director for Netanyahu, publicist Yoaz Hendel. In a widely shared Facebook post, Hendel wrote, "On Saturday I'm going out to protest – not in Tel Aviv, but in Jerusalem, not 'against' but 'for' the rule of law."

Speaking at the Jerusalem rally, former defence minister Moshe Yaalon said corruption worried him more than anything else.

"It's a greater danger than the Iranian threat, (Lebanese movement) Hezbollah, (Palestinian movement) Hamas or the Islamic State" militant group, he said of corruption, without specifying Netanyahu.

'Corruption is a disease'

"Corruption is a disease," he said, "a disease that must be healed by electing and appointing honest people."

Netanyahu has consistently denied any wrongdoing, and says he is the target of a smear campaign by political opponents.

In one investigation, he is suspected of illegally receiving gifts from rich personalities including Australian billionaire James Packer and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.

In a second case, police suspect Netanyahu sought a secret pact for favourable coverage with the publisher of the top-selling Yediot Aharonot newspaper.

The alleged scheme, not believed to have been finalised, would have seen him receive favourable coverage in return for helping curb Yediot's competitor, the pro-Netanyahu freesheet Israel Hayom.

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