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Weekly Anti-Netanyahu Rallies Grow Larger in Israel

Weekly Anti-Netanyahu Rallies Grow Larger in IsraelWeekly Anti-Netanyahu Rallies Grow Larger in Israel

Engulfed in a string of scandals, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finds himself facing a growing grassroots protest movement demanding his indictment and removal from office.

Weekly anti-corruption vigils in front of the home of Israel’s attorney general have gone from a trickle to drawing thousands of people, and the recent arrest of the two main organizers seems to spell stress within Netanyahu’s circle while further energizing his opponents, AP reported.

The unlikely duo spearheading the protest effort could not be more different. One used to hobnob in the most exclusive circles of power, while the other is a former maintenance man at the prime minister’s residence. Once dismissed as disgruntled fringe characters, Eldad Yaniv and Meni Naftali have together galvanized a movement that has rattled Netanyahu’s grip on power.

“Netanyahu sees our protest as a clear and present danger to his continued rule, and that is why he is trying to harm us,” said Yaniv, who was arrested with Naftali last week on their way to a protest.

Although the allegations have yet to threaten his lengthy rule, Netanyahu has seen his approval ratings drop amid repeated questions about his conduct and integrity.

One of his closest former aides has become a witness against him, and Netanyahu himself has been questioned under caution in a pair of cases relating to alleged financial misdeeds and illicit ties to executives in media, international business and Hollywood. Police say they suspect Netanyahu of being involved in bribery, fraud and breach of trust. The final decision is in the hands of his attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit.

For now, Netanyahu still has the backing of his ruling Likud Party and key conservative coalition partners, leaving critics pinning their hopes on the attorney general’s discretion to indict.

What began as a gathering of a handful of good governance activists outside Mandelblit’s home has now, in its 40th week, swelled into a powerful display of demonstration each Saturday night that has drawn heavy media coverage, sparked pro-Netanyahu protests and unnerved police. Last weekend, police pre-emptively arrested Yaniv and Naftali for allegedly soliciting an illegal demonstration, detaining them overnight before a court freed them amid scathing criticism of police. Israel’s Supreme Court said Thursday the protests could continue but would be limited to 500 people, and it barred the use of loudspeakers in the residential area.

Netanyahu has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and called the accusations against him a witch hunt orchestrated by a hostile media. He has dismissed the suspicions as “background noise,” vowed to stay in office for years to come and recently held a boisterous rally in Tel Aviv where he criticized the media to hundreds of cheering supporters.

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