TEL AVIV – Leaders of the Israeli opposition are gearing up for early elections in light of news that a confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed a state witness deal in a case that will possibly incriminate the prime minister.
“The events of the last two days and recent hours make it very clear: The Netanyahu age is over. We must prepare for an election soon,” Zionist Union party leader Avi Gabbay wrote Tuesday night in a letter to party lawmakers. “The criminal house of cards the prime minister built in recent years – corrupting the civil service, harming the rule of law, threatening freedom of the press and more than all else, dividing Israeli society – is crashing down on him and around him.”
Communications Ministry Director-General Shlomo Filber signed a state witness deal in the so-called Case 4000 involving telecommunications company Bezeq. Filber was said to have been ordered by the prime minister to ease regulations on Bezeq in return for the phone company’s chief shareholder Shaul Elovitch giving Netanyahu positive coverage on his news site Walla.
“We must focus our efforts on one thing: To win the elections and provide Israel with leadership and a government that has values, integrity, is transparent, does not flip-flop and is not working for any tycoons,” Gabbay said.
Zionist Union chairman Yoel Hasson was laying the groundwork for an election on Wednesday, although his office refused to comment on whether the party was drafting a bill to break up the coalition – often a preliminary move before an early election.
Meretz MK Ilan Gilon called for candidates to form an election committee.
“The Netanyahu government’s days are numbered, and we already need to prepare for the upcoming election in order not to be caught unprepared, because we are dealing with our internal election,” Gilon said. “I call on my friends who are running for the position of Meretz chairman to reach agreements on manning and establishing an election committee before the primary.”
“We cannot forget that the real and most important struggle is to replace the corrupt right-wing government and increase Meretz’s power in the next Knesset,” he added.
Despite the opposition’s efforts, however, polls from last week indicate that if elections were held today Netanyahu’s Likud would actually gain one Knesset seat.