01:17 - Source: CNN
Thousands of Israelis rally for change in government

Story highlights

Group One Million Hands sponsors event in Tel Aviv

They want to see a new prime minister

Israeli elections come March 17

(CNN) —  

A crowd of tens of thousands filled Yitzhak Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on Saturday evening, calling for a change in Israeli leadership amid growing discontent with the current administration.

The rally, called “Israel Wants Change,” was put on by One Million Hands, a grassroots movement that focuses its efforts on two major issues: a two-state solution and a reduction in the cost of living.

On both of these topics, founder Dror Ben-Ami says, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has failed.

“We think that the only way to go forward on that account is to change government and to get this current government out of office. To get Bibi out of office,” says Ben-Ami.

Organizers are not promoting any specific candidate or pushing voters toward any political party in the March 17 balloting. Instead, they are encouraging voters to change the current administration. Police estimated the crowd at 40,000 people.

Headlining the rally was Meir Dagan, the former head of Mossad, Israel’s spy agency, and a vocal critic of Netanyahu. In recent weeks, Dagan criticized Netanyahu’s decision to speak before the U.S. Congress, and he continued his criticism at the rally, saying that he has never seen such stagnation in Israeli politics.

Netanyahu still has broad support in Israel, and his Likud party is doing well in the polls. The Zionist Union is Likud’s primary challenger.

In the initial round of polling immediately following Netanyahu’s speech before Congress, the Zionist Union was expected to win 24 seats in the Knesset while Likud was expected to win 23 seats. The poll comes from CNN affiliate Channel 2 Israel.

Because of the nature of Israeli politics, Netanyahu’s Likud party could lose the election while Netanyahu still becomes prime minister.

In many ways, this rally was reminiscent of a similar social movement that began in the summer of 2011. Hundreds of thousands of protesters packed the streets of Tel Aviv, demanding improvements in the cost of housing, education, and health care. What started as a small social media campaign turned into a nationwide movement that spread to other major cities.

This time, the issues are different. But the growing sense of discontent and the calls for change remain.