Blue and White leader Benny Gantz speaking on February 28, 2019.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/ MAARIV)
Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz said for the first time on Thursday night that he would not sit in a government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Gantz had been under pressure from political allies Yair Lapid and Moshe Ya’alon to make such an announcement. But he waited until after Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit decided to indict the prime minister for bribery, pending a hearing.
“After the attorney-general’s decision
, sitting in a government led by Netanyahu is no longer an option,” Gantz said.
He called on Netanyahu to conduct his legal battle as a private citizen.
“The Netanyahu I know wouldn’t compel the nation to be run by a prime minister working part-time and dealing with state’s witnesses the rest of the time,” Gantz said. “Israel deserves better than that.”
Likud responded to Gantz’s attacks by noting that a woman accused him of sexual harassment 40 years ago.
“Everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and we hope he cleans his name as soon as possible from the grave charges against him,” the right-wing party said of Gantz.
Labor leader Avi Gabbay said the time had come for Netanyahu to resign. He pleaded with him to not run his legal battle from the Prime Minister’s Office.
“Netanyahu brings shame upon the State of Israel,” he said. “He is destroying everything in order to save himself. The citizens of Israel do not want corrupt leadership.”
Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg said the premier was “fundamentally corrupt, and subordinated the entire public system to his own political survival.”
Former prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert also called upon the head of government to resign.
“Netanyahu no longer has the moral authority to continue to lead Israel even for one more day,” Barak wrote on Twitter. “His behavior stains Israel and himself. If he continues to remain stuck to his chair, he will end up in prison for many years.”
Hadash-Ta’al co-chairman Ayman Odeh said Netanyahu should be put in prison immediately.
“Netanyahu’s incitement against the Arab population, his branding the Left as traitors and his divisiveness were all intended to distract from his corruption,” Odeh said. “Bibi’s top priority is only himself, certainly not the citizens.”
The Union of Right-Wing Parties defended Netanyahu, saying “Every man, including Netanyahu, is innocent until proven guilty.” The bloc of Bayit Yehudi, National Union and Otzma Yehudit said it would still recommend Netanyahu to form the government, despite Mandelblit’s decision.
The New Right, Shas and United Torah Judaism also announced that they would still recommend that Netanyahu form the next government.
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, who has been acquitted in multiple criminal investigations, said that “only the courts have the right to determine guilt or innocence.”
Otzma Yehudit accused Mandelblit of trying to overthrow Netanyahu.
The only right-wing MK who said Netanyahu should leave office was Oren Hazan, who left Likud after he did not win a realistic slot and is running at the helm of the Tzomet Party.
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