Opposition rallies to 'save' Israel from Netanyahu

Organisers say tens of thousands of people participated in the Tel Aviv event, but police estimate a far lower turnout.

    Israeli oposition parties' supporters attend a rally against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [Jack Guez/AFP]
    Israeli oposition parties' supporters attend a rally against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [Jack Guez/AFP]

    Thousands of Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv on Saturday night to protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's emerging coalition agreements, which opposition leaders said would constitute the end of the country's democracy.

    Netanyahu, who has until Wednesday night to form a new coalition following the April 9 elections, has so far failed to accommodate the clashing demands of his future government partners, primarily over the issue of drafting ultra-Orthodox men into the military.

    While no agreements have been presented so far, there was speculation that coalition members would have to agree to measures that would weaken the judiciary, which is seeking to put Netanyahu on trial.

    Netanyahu has until October to face a pre-trial hearing after Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced in February his intention to indict the leader on charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery.

    Thousands of people on Saturday night waved Israeli flags and signs with slogans such as "One people, one law".

    "We won't let you turn democratic Israel into the private court of a royal family or a sultanate," said Benny Gantz, head of the Blue and White alliance, which is set to be the largest opposition party.

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    "You're not above the law, we won't let you be a dictator," said Yair Lapid, also of Blue and White.

    Tamar Zandberg of the left-wing Meretz party said that "we're here to fight for our country".

    "Netanyahu is going to crush the supreme court to prevent justice from taking its course with a fugitive criminal," she said, as protesters chanted "Bibi go home!"

    Organisers said tens of thousands of people participated in the event, which took place in front of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.

    Police estimated fewer than 10,000 protesters were present.

    If Netanyahu fails to present a coalition by Wednesday, President Reuven Rivlin could assign the mission to another member of parliament.

    In a Facebook post on Saturday, former defence minister Avigdor Lieberman stressed that he would only enter a coalition committed to passing his proposed draft law.

    While having recommended that Netanyahu form the coalition, Lieberman warned that if his demands were not met, "we'll go to re-elections".

    Targeted by a Text | Fault Lines

    SOURCE: AFP news agency