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Thousands of Israelis protest immunity bill that would shield Netanyahu from indictment (PHOTOS)

Protesters took to the streets of Tel Aviv, rallying against the recently tabled immunity bill that could shield Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from mounting corruption investigations.

The demonstration under the banner “Defensive Shield for Democracy” showed a rare unity of almost all the parties in Israeli opposition. The exact number of the protesters remains unclear, with footage from the scene showing considerable crowds. The organizers of the protest said that at least 80,000 people took part.

The protesters carried placards criticizing Netanyahu and his alleged corruption and sporting the PM’s infamous moniker “Crime Minister” in various forms. Many showed up wearing ottoman-style fez headwear and even brought portraits of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, alluding to Netanyahu creating what they called an “Erdogan-style dictatorship”.

“The fez symbolizes the regime type that we are opposing, where everything is controlled by one person and people are afraid to express their opinions. That’s where we’re headed,” a protester explained to Haaretz. 

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Netanyahu has been in office for a decade, and secured his fifth term in April amid three ongoing investigations into his alleged corruption, bribery and fraud. The PM denies the charges, insisting that they are politically-motivated. He has also said that he has no plans to step down from the post even if actually charged.

While the probes have apparently done nothing to dull Netanyahu’s drive for power, members of his Likud party tabled a bill that would grant government officials legal immunity by default. If the proposed legislation is adopted, it will not be possible to charge elected officials with a criminal offense unless the 120-member Knesset and the Knesset House Committee decide to waive this immunity.

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The bill effectively reverses the system already in place in Israel – currently, the Knesset and the House Committee have the power to grant an official immunity from prosecution.

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