TEL AVIV – Members of Knesset in the ruling Likud party described police recommendations that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted on a series of corruption charges a “coup” designed by the prime minister’s opponents, while leaders of the opposition called for Netanyahu’s immediate resignation.
Coalition head David Amsalem (Likud) said that the police recommendation “endangers” the democratic process.
“This is nothing new. The target was marked two years ago. They have fired dozens of arrows towards it in the hope that one of them will hit it, and after they have turned over every stone, in every corner of the world, the police did everything in order to reach their goal,” Amsalem said in a statement.
“According to my understanding, we are talking about an illegitimate process that endangers every democratic country in the world. In a democratic country, the government is overturned at the ballot box and not by the army or the police,” he added.
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.”
He added that it was a “disgrace” that the central witness against the prime minister is Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), who for years has been trying to replace Netanyahu, and now, after losing two elections, is orchestrating an overthrow of the government by giving dubious testimony.
“The truth will come to light and the government will continue to lead Israel under Netanyahu,” Levin said.
On Tuesday, reports emerged that Lapid would testify against Netanyahu in the so-called Case 1000 involving businessman Arnon Milchan, from whom the prime minister allegedly received gifts including cigars, champagne and jewelry to the tune of NIS 750,000 ($265,000).
Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev (Likud) also slammed Lapid, saying he was a “failed politician” attempting to bring down the government using methods that are diametrically opposed to democracy. She added that the police recommendations “have no legal validity.”
Minister for Regional Cooperation Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) said, “I’ve known Benjamin Netanyahu for decades and believe in his honesty and innocence.”
“The Likud movement will continue to have faith in the prime minister and to help him lead the country,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Zionist Union, the main opposition party, predictably 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.
“Tonight, Zionist Union backs the police investigators, the chief of police and all the law enforcement bodies who did not flinch from investigating a prime minister. It’s a badge of honor for all of us.”
“The time has come to put an end to the culture of government corruption, which is destroying everything good in the country. After nine years of Netanyahu, the public deserves a new leadership and a clean, honest prime minister,” it concluded.
Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay claimed it was “the end of the Netanyahu era.”
Shelly Yachimovitch (Zionist Union) tweeted, “A corrupt tyrant with no restraint, whom the police ask to have accused of the most serious crimes of corruption, announces that he’s not going. His actions are corrupt and ugly, his behavior is violent and egocentric, he’s prepared to destroy everything so long as he survives. Go, go, corrupt man. And you, his partners, if you allow him to serve in this nightmare, then the stain of corruption will stick to you forever too.”
Ilan Gilon, of the left-wing Meretz party, said the prime minister’s resignation was the only measure that would restore the public’s trust in the government.
Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint (Arab) List said, “Netanyahu is a corrupt and dangerous prime minister and tonight he’s even more dangerous, because it’s clear that from the moment that his seat becomes unstable, he will do everything to stay in government. Netanyahu must go home.”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) slammed the opposition’s call for early elections, saying that they are acting with zero restraint and “have forgotten the Prime Minister’s presumption of innocence.” However, Bennett also rebuked the suggestion by MKs from the Likud party that the police are “overthrowing” the government.
“I trust the policemen and the Chief of Police,” he said.
Case 1000 charges Netanyahu and his wife Sara with receiving gifts from billionaire benefactors, including Israeli-born Hollywood producer 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 newspaper Israel Hayom by supporting legislation targeting Israel Hayom in return for more favorable coverage in Mozes’ Yedioth Ahronoth. Netanyahu, however, not only did not support the legislation, he openly worked against the bill in question, raising some questions about the police case.