Moshe Kahlon (left) and Benjamin Netanyahu (right)..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s criticism of law-enforcement authorities in a speech to Likud activists at a Hanukka party he hosted Tuesday night failed to persuade Kulanu chairman Moshe Kahlon to ignore expected police recommendations to indict Netanyahu, sources close to Kahlon said Wednesday.
Both Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman and Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett said at The Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference two weeks ago that Netanyahu would not have to resign even if he were to be indicted by Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit.
Netanyahu should not quit if indicted because he should be given a chance to prove his innocence in court, Liberman said in an address to a Limmud FSU group Wednesday.
Those statements left Kahlon, whose party prides itself on backing the rule of law, holding the key to the future of Netanyahu’s government.
The prime minister’s attack on the police was seen as an attempt to convince Kahlon that police recommendations do not matter.
But sources close to Kahlon said the speech had no impact on the finance minister’s beliefs or future actions. They noted that a day before Netanyahu’s speech, Kahlon lit Hanukka candles with Police Insp.-Gen. Roni Alsheich at a Border Police base in Michmash and told him to “continue doing your important work.”
In the speech at Ramat Gan’s Kfar Hamaccabiah Hotel, Netanyahu accused the police, the press, the Left and the New Israel Fund of an “organized witch hunt” aimed at unseating him.
“In a matter of weeks, analysts will lead news shows with explosive headlines on recommendations that are grave, very grave, even among the gravest the state has known,” Netanyahu said while laughing mockingly. “So there will be recommendations. So what? Most police recommendations lead to nothing.
“More than 60% of the time police recommendations are thrown in the garbage. It happens to thousands of Israelis, including countless public figures, and meanwhile, it ruins lives, harms reputations. The recommendations will lead nowhere because nothing happened.”
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) expressed support for both Netanyahu and the police at the Knesset when answering a parliamentary query from Yesh Atid MK Elazar Stern. He said Netanyahu was correct in saying the attorney-general and not the police have the power to indict.
“I have supported the police from the day I entered my job,” Erdan said. “I do not doubt how they operate. What the prime minister said requires a deeper explanation, and some of what he said was justified. I am not comfortable with all his statements or his style or the way some of what he said could be interpreted. But the issue is complex.”
Opposition politicians lashed out at Netanyahu.
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid said Wednesday in the Knesset plenum it was wrong of the prime minister to attack the police while they are working to protect the public.
“It was not the police that received gifts worth $200,000 but you,” Zionist Union chairman Avi Gabbay said about Netanyahu. “Instead of admitting that he made a mistake, the prime minister continues to attack the police. It is not the police that has been accused of corruption.”
Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On said the prime minister was trying to scare the police and destroy their reputation.
Zionist Union faction chairman Yoel Hasson said Netanyahu “used his Hanukka candle- lighting ceremony to set the rule of law ablaze.”