Israeli PM's supporters rally in Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv (AFP) –


Thousands of supporters of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flooded into Tel Aviv Tuesday in the first major protest backing the premier since his indictment on graft charges.

The 70-year-old politician, Israel's longest-serving prime minister, was charged on Thursday with bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu's Likud party bussed demonstrators from all over the country to the rally in the coastal city.

Placards bearing slogans such as "Netanyahu, the people are with you" and "No to judicial dictatorship" were brandished by the crowd.

Israel has been without a functioning government for most of the year, with Netanyahu, nicknamed 'King Bibi', staying on as interim premier after two inconclusive elections in April and September.

Former minister Gideon Saar, who commands significant support inside Likud, has called for a party leadership election ahead of a possible third election.

But other senior Likud members still back Netanyahu.

"When our prime minister is attacked on all sides, that is the time to unite and back him," his ally Miri Regev, culture and sports minister, said on Facebook while taking part in the demonstration.