The state of Israel, located in what can be described as “the middle of the Middle East,” has largely escaped the revolts that plagued many of its surrounding neighbors in the 2011-2012 Arab Spring Uprising. However, amidst allegations of corruption and libel surrounding the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, popular unrest throughout the country has slowly begun to rise.
The protests were aimed at two issues: the potential passage of a new bill, and the slow advancement of Netanyahu’s corruption investigations. Since Jan. 2017, Netanyahu has been the target of state and international scrutiny after his suspicious actions with corporations. He has been accused of accepting bribes and donations from businesses, and striking business deals with Israeli newspapers to portray his opponents in a bad light.
Netanyahu’s bill has also been accused of being an effort to stop the investigation. According to The Guardian, the bill is backed by many of his allies in the Likud party. The new bill would halt the tide against Netanyahu’s investigation by forcing police officers to not recommend prosecution of suspects. It would also stem leaks of information by penalizing those who did share information on investigations. This would stop, or at the very least, pause the investigations.
This was seen as going too far by many Israelis. On Dec. 2, tens of thousands of Israelis marched on Tel Aviv in one of the largest protests against Netanyahu’s rule. Calls for removal of the new bill echoed throughout the city, with protesters mocking Netanyahu, calling for more investigations into the allegations. Despite its lengthy time, the protest ultimately ended without police intervention or any injuries. However, the message to Netanyahu and his government was clear.
In an official statement later that week, Netanyahu urged his allies to “rewrite” the bill, to portray it as not explicitly helping him. According to Deutsches Welle, the bill will now be amended to specifically exclude Netanyahu’s investigation from its constraints. While this is a step in the right direction, it is not exactly what was intended by his opponents. Time will only show the reaction to this compromise.