Netanyahu’s Coalition Members Say They Won’t Rush to Abandon PM
TEL AVIV – Senior members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition said they would not rush to make any decisions until after the attorney general made his ruling in the wake of police recommendations published Tuesday that the premier be indicted on corruption, bribery and fraud charges.
“The law states that only the attorney general can make decisions regarding filing or not filing an indictment,” Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, the Kulanu party leader who is a top ally of Netanyahu, wrote on his Facebook page.
Kahlon called “on everyone — on the left and the right — to stop attacking the police and the legal system,” which he said must be allowed to operate “in an orderly, professional, and levelheaded manner.”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett said Wednesday that his Jewish Home party would remain in the ruling coalition despite the police recommendations and that the rule of law means the prime minister is innocent until proven guilty.
“We are a country of laws, and Prime Minister Netanyahu is still presumed innocent. Therefore, I have decided to wait for the decision of the attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit,” said Bennett, in his first official comment on the police recommendations announced Tuesday. “I trust the integrity and strength of the attorney general and his team.”
Bennett added that even though some of the charges indicated that Netanyahu was “not living up to the standard” expected of a leader, he had no doubt regarding Netanyahu’s motives in governing the country.
“I believe him,” Bennett said in reference to the prime minister’s claim that everything he did he did for the state. “Some claim the prime minister cannot manage the country under the stress of investigations, but I do not see this.”
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman also said that the rule of law must be allowed to take its course.
“Everyone is entitled to presumption of innocence, even the prime minister,” said Liberman. “Only one body is allowed to decide who is guilty and who is innocent — the courts, not the press.”
Liberman added that “without a doubt” Netanyahu can continue in his position, “otherwise it’s a coup” to topple the government.
In the wake of the police recommendations Tuesday, other MKs also suggested that it was a “coup” attempt.
Coalition head David Amsalem (Likud) said that the police recommendations “endanger” democratic processes.
Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin (Likud) said that the police recommendations are part of “a contemptible move to stage a government coup against the will of the voter.”
Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev (Likud) slammed the police recommendations as having “no legal validity.”
Meanwhile, the Zionist Union, the main opposition party, released a statement saying the prime minister should immediately resign and if he fails to do so the heads of the parties in his coalition should force him out.
“The police recommendations are clear, tough, and decisive. It’s a difficult evening when the Israel Police recommends prosecuting a prime minister in Israel with bribery, fraud and breach of trust,” the statement said.
The so-called Case 1000 charges Netanyahu and his wife Sara with receiving illegal gifts from billionaire benefactors, including Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, and Australian businessman James Packer.
In Case 2000, Netanyahu is suspected of striking a deal with media mogul Arnon (Noni) Mozes whereby the premier would weaken the Sheldon Adelson-backed daily Israel Hayom in return for more favorable coverage in Mozes’ Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper. Netanyahu, however, not only did not support the legislation, he openly worked against the bill in question, raising some questionsabout the police case.