Protesters took to the streets of Tel Aviv, rallying against the recently tabled immunity bill that would shield Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from mounting corruption investigations.
The ‘Defensive Shield for Democracy’ demonstration showed rare unity among nearly all parties in the Israeli opposition. The number of protesters remains unclear, with footage from the scene showing considerable crowds. Organizers say at least 80,000 people took part.
Protesters carried placards criticizing Netanyahu and his alleged corruption, sporting the PM’s ‘Crime Minister’ moniker in various forms. Many showed up wearing Ottoman-style fez headwear and even brought portraits of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, alluding to Netanyahu creating what they called an “Erdogan-style dictatorship.”
“The fez symbolizes the regime type that we are opposing, where everything is controlled by one person and people are afraid to express their opinions. That’s where we’re headed,” one protester told Haaretz.
Netanyahu has been in office for a decade, and secured his fifth term in April amid three ongoing investigations into his alleged corruption, bribery and fraud. The PM denies the charges, insisting they are politically-motivated. He also said he has no plans to step down even if charged.
While the probes have apparently done nothing to dull Netanyahu’s drive for power, members of his Likud party tabled a bill that would grant government officials legal immunity by default. If the proposed legislation is adopted, it will not be possible to charge elected officials with a criminal offense unless the 120-member Knesset and the Knesset House Committee decide to waive immunity.
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The bill effectively reverses the system already in place in Israel – currently, the Knesset and the House Committee have the power to grant official immunity from prosecution.
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