3،000 swell protest over Netanyahu graft probes

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At least 3،000 people protested near the home of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on Saturday night، calling on him to bring indictments in a pair of corruption investigations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu، Times of Israel reported.

While demonstrations near Mandelblit’s home in Petah Tivka have been held every Saturday for half-a-year amid accusations Mandelblit is dragging his feet in the cases، Saturday’s protest was the second week in a row to see significantly larger crowds، coming after Netanyahu’s former chief of staff turned state’s witness amid several developments in the investigations.

Anti-Netanyahu demonstrations were also held in a number of other cities، among them Jerusalem، Haifa، Beersheba and Ashdod and Modiin.

The latest protests came days after a Likud rally in support of the prime minister garnered a similarly sized crowd.

On Wednesday، facing some 3،000 Likud party activists، Netanyahu launched a tirade against the left-field of Israeli politics and media that he accused of conspiring against him.

At the event held in Tel Aviv، Netanyahu accused the left and the media of using ever-widening corruption investigations against him and his family to try to oust him from power in what he called “a coup against the government.”

Nearby the Saturday Petah Tikva protest، some 100 Likud supporters held، for a second week، a counter-demonstration organized by Coalition Chairman David Bitan as a show of support for Netanyahu.

“They are trying to pressure the attorney general to finish the investigations and indict the prime minister. This sort of pressure is illegal and anti-democratic،” Bitan told the crowd، referring to the anti-Netanyahu protest. “You cannot say that what they are doing does not effect the investigation. Of course it does.”

Netanyahu is engulfed in a series of scandals relating to alleged financial misdeeds and supposed illicit ties to executives in media، international business and Hollywood.

One investigation involving Netanyahu، dubbed by police as “Case 1000،” concerns claims he and his wife improperly accepted lavish gifts from wealthy supporters، including Australian billionaire James Packer and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.

The second investigation، “Case 2000،” concerns Netanyahu’s alleged attempts to strike a deal with publisher Arnon Mozes of the Yediot Ahronoth newspaper group to promote legislation to weaken Yediot’s main competitor in exchange for more favorable coverage of Netanyahu by Yediot.

A key former aide، Ari Harow، has turned state’s witness and reportedly given evidence relating to some of the investigations.

Police last week explicitly said for the first time that a number of corruption investigations involving Netanyahu deal with “bribery، fraud and breach of trust.” The police stopped short of saying that the Israeli leader was directly suspected of these crimes.

Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.

His wife Sara is also facing indictment for misusing state funds at the prime minister’s residence. In his Wednesday speech، Netanyahu frequently reference her، calling the case against her “an embarrassment.”

A Thursday survey found that 72 percent of Israelis are in favor of pushing ahead with the two corruption investigations but almost half of those surveyed said they agree with the premier when he claims he is the subject of a witch hunt aimed ousting him out of office.

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