March of Shame Forces Prime Minister Netanyahu to Redraft Bill on Investigations

8 December 2017

Tens of thousands of Israelis marched through Tel Aviv last Saturday night to protest a Knesset bill that would have protected Prime Minister Netanyahu from indictment on corruption charges. The next day, Netanyahu announced that his Recommendations Bill would be reworded to exclude his investigation from the legislation.

Zionist Camp MK Tzipi Livni said, “This is a victory for integrity over corruption. This is a great victory for the Israeli public, which proves that we have not lost hope.”

Netanyahu is under investigation for accepting expensive gifts from billionaire friends and for an alleged deal for sympathetic coverage in Yediot Ahronot.

Netanyahu has attacked the media and has been attempting to clip the wings of the police and judiciary through non-democratic legislation. The Recommendations Bill was designed to relieve pressure on Netanyahu by halting the current practice in which Israeli Police recommends to the Attorney General whether a suspect should be indicted.

Dubbed the “March of Shame,” and organized swiftly via social media, the protest, which encompassed Israelis from across the political spectrum, including prominent right-wing figures, showed the power of civil society.

On the website “Local Call,” journalist and political activist Hagai Matar wrote, “Nobody thought it would be so big. The organizers who are probably used to a few hundred people coming to Petah Tikva (to protest outside the Attorney general’s home) prepared a small, weak sound system on the steps of the Museum of Independence and planned a march to Habima square.”

“But by 8:30pm when the demonstration was due to start, the demonstrators mobbed (all the surrounding streets) Rothschild Boulevard between Allenby and Herzl and few heard the speeches while others shouted out slogans and set out on a spontaneous march to Habima Square. People were estimating that 50,000 demonstrators were there.”

Matar added, “But more important than the numbers, it was clear that the profile of those present, wasn’t the regular profile of demonstrators. The average age was around 60 and it seemed like most were middle and upper middle class. Just about everybody I asked said that they had never been to a demonstration before and some of my friends told me that their non-political parents had come to the first demonstration in their lives.”

Matar depicted a broad mass of Israeli society that came together against the undemocratic onslaught by the Netanyahu government. Following Saturday night’s protests, the bill has been reworded to exclude all current investigations, including Netanyahu’s. It remains unclear whether the bill will still be presented to the Knesset in its new form.

Photo credit: Gilad Kavalerchik