Thousands of Israelis rallied in several cities on Saturday, calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign over corruption charges that could end his 12-year rule.
The demonstrations came a day before a court is expected to announce its verdict on whether Netanyahu is guilty of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three separate cases. He faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine if convicted.
The protesters waved flags and signs that read “Go”, “Enough” and “Crime Minister”, and chanted slogans such as “Bibi, go home” and “We are the people, we are the power”.
They accused Netanyahu of undermining democracy, mismanaging the Covid-19 pandemic and inciting violence and hatred among different segments of Israeli society.
“We want a new leadership that will respect the rule of law, fight for social justice and peace, and unite us as a nation,” said Yael, a 45-year-old teacher from Tel Aviv.
Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing and claims he is the victim of a “witch hunt” by the media, the judiciary and the opposition. He has also refused to step down or form a coalition government with his rivals, leading to four inconclusive elections in two years.
The anti-Netanyahu protests have been taking place every week for over a year, despite police crackdowns, counter-demonstrations by his supporters and the coronavirus restrictions.
The three cases against Netanyahu involve allegations that he accepted lavish gifts from wealthy friends, offered favors to media moguls in exchange for positive coverage, and promoted regulatory changes that benefited a telecom giant in return for favorable news stories.
The verdict in the trial, which began in May 2020, is expected to be announced on Sunday at 9 a.m. local time (0600 GMT) at the Jerusalem District Court.