TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday rejected accusations of criminal activity as “hot air” and “lies,” saying he has full confidence that Israel’s attorney general would find no wrongdoing on his part.
During his first Question Time, Netanyahu was asked by Zionist Union MK Yael Cohen Paran to respond to charges against him that a passport and bank account had been created in his son Yair’s name in order to illegally funnel money via Panama.
“There is no passport, there is no Panama [account], there is no account,” Netanyahu said, adding that the allegations were “nonsense” and “lies.”
“In this case as well, there is no fire, there is no smoke, there is only hot air. A lot of hot air,” he said.
“Spoiler alert,” Netanyahu added, “There will be nothing [revealed by the probe], because there is nothing.”
The prime minister also addressed the recent behavior of official rabbis in the session, which ran for close to two hours. He admitted that the Supreme Rabbinical Court’s controversial refusal to recognize a conversion by U.S. rabbi Haskel Lookstein was problematic, and reprimanded another prominent rabbi, Yigal Levinstein, for labeling homosexuals “deviants,” saying the remarks were “inappropriate and unacceptable, certainly not for me and shouldn’t be acceptable to anyone else.”
“I think a human being is a human being and I act accordingly,” he added.
Meretz leader Zahava Gal-On demanded that the prime minister put his money where his mouth is and show his support of the homosexual community by attending Thursday’s gay pride parade in Jerusalem.
“I don’t attend these marches or any others … but I support them,” replied Netanyahu, adding that he also doesn’t attend weddings or bar mitzvahs.
Netanyahu also slammed the Palestinian Authority for disregarding any efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Abbas “runs away, runs away, runs away, because he knows that he will have to make concessions — concessions on Jaffa, concessions on Acre, concessions on Beersheba. This is the simple truth,” he said.
“There is no mutual recognition,” he added.
Former peace negotiator and current Zionist Union member Tzipi Livni countered Netanyahu’s remarks, saying the Palestinians have long since given up on returning to Jaffa and other Israeli cities and asked the prime minister if he was intending to implement another settlement-building moratorium in the near future.
The prime minister responded by saying that past settlement freezes have not worked. He reminded Livni of the 10-month freeze in 2009, which had no effect in bringing the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.
“This hasn’t proved successful, to put it mildly, until today,” he said, adding that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas demands preconditions that “my government can’t agree to, and I don’t think an alternative to my government would agree to.”
However, he said he hoped that recently improved ties with moderate Arab states, including Egypt, “will bring Palestinians to a more realistic position. We’re trying it; it’s not entirely clear what these states will bring” to the Israeli-Palestinian relationship.
The prime minister reiterated his position that a revised version of the Arab League’s 2002 peace initiative could provide a platform for peace talks.
“If it’s a script, then certainly we cannot [agree to it]. If it’s a basis to open talks, then sure,” he said.