Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara Netanyahu, at the Jerusalem Theater.
(photo credit: CHAIM TZACH/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former prime minister Ehud Barak intensified their rivalry on Sunday with below the belt attacks, including Netanyahu accusing Barak of connections to alleged pedophile and sex-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.
Netanyahu and Barak fought over Twitter, where Netanyahu posted an article about Epstein, who was arrested on Saturday night in New York on sex trafficking charges. Netanyahu complained that the Israeli media was not criticizing Barak over his connections to Epstein.
Barak responded by turning the tables on Netanyahu.
“It pains me that people I know have gotten in trouble with the law,” Barak wrote on Twitter. “First came Netanyahu and now Epstein. I hope for both of them that the truth will come to light.”
Netanyahu began the social media battle on Sunday by calling Barak’s new Israel Democratic Party a joke, when speaking to supporters live on Facebook during a visit to the Jerusalem coffee shop.
“This is one of the biggest jokes,” Netanyahu said, when asked what he thought of Barak’s party. Netanyahu also called Barak “a fringe candidate who has no chance,” while blasting the media for giving him coverage. He added that “Barak is a little dictator who chooses his candidates alone.”
When giving his credit card to pay for his coffee, Netanyahu joked, “so there won’t be another investigation,” referring to his corruption case. Responding to an attack from Barak, Netanyahu denied advancing a controversial immunity bill.
“We don’t need it, there won’t be anything because there wasn’t anything,” Netanyahu said. Likud MK Miki Zohar, who is close to Netanyahu, proposed a bill in May that would grant the prime minister and all MKs immunity from criminal proceedings. The bill came after Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit recommended indicting Netanyahu on three counts of fraud and breach of trust and one of bribery.
The prime minister told potential coalition partners that parts of their summer vacation could be canceled to advance the Supreme Court override bill, which was also intended to help him withstand his probes.
Barak responded to Netanyahu’s claim that there was nothing criminal going on by tweeting, “Bibi, I know you well, your [blood] pressure is approaching 100, with the rate of your lies.”
“Drink some water, we are just getting started,” he said.
The Blue and White Party also jumped on the opportunity to critique Netanyahu and the immunity bill.
“Does anyone believe him?” the party asked in a public statement. “In April, he said, ‘I will not promote the immunity bill.’ In May, he bought parties and negotiated in return for the immunity bill. In July, he said, ‘there will be no change in the immunity bill.’”
New Right leader Naftali Bennett also weighed in, saying that he opposed applying an immunity law retroactively to Netanyahu and his pending indictment.
“We are opposed and will oppose any personal law,” said Bennett during a conference at the Israel Democracy Institute. “In principle I support increasing the immunity law, but not in a personal and retroactive connection. I am open to a discussion about the extent of immunity for a future prime minister, and the level of crime below which we can wait for the end of [a prime minister’s] tenure, but not in this specific context.”
Barak attacked Netanyahu again on Sunday evening, telling Channel 12 that the Submarine Affair was not being advanced, despite evidence implicating the prime minister. He said the police want to move the case forward but are being prevented by Mandelblit. He also accused Netanyahu of going overboard in designating his political rivals as leftists.
“He has brainwashed the public to think that whoever doesn’t think like him is an agent of Hamas,” Barak said.
Jeremy Sharon and Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.
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