(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi issued a thinly veiled warning on Thursday to MKs who criticize Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while he is under investigation.
Referencing the case of Ehud Barak, who called on Ehud Olmert to resign in 2008 when he was indicted while prime minister, Hanegbi accused Barak of being a traitor. Hanegbi’s comments followed multiple reports that Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon is devising a deal with Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog to change the makeup of the coalition.
Hanegbi quoted right-wing poet and journalist Uri Zvi Greenberg (1896-1981), who said, “Every traitor is a fool.”
Hanegbi said, “Barak is a traitor. He betrayed Olmert, and then, as we can all see, he vanished from the political scene. People do not like his kind of manipulative personality,” he said in an interview with Army radio on Thursday.
Hanegbi rejected the notion that the situation is similar to that in 2008, when then-defense minister Barak called then-prime minister Ehud Olmert to step down due to corruption allegations.
“Ehud Barak used his power as a senior member in the coalition to create leverage on the prime minister. He then had hallucinations that he would step in as prime minister. Kahlon is not a traitor and not a fool; therefore I am sure that he will stay loyal to the prime minister,” he said, arguing that the current situation regarding Netanyahu’s investigation would not lead to the dismantling of the coalition.
“In the current situation, if you take the coalition factions one by one... They understand that the legal situation now is not to be compared to the time of Olmert. You don’t have the envelopes, the money transferring and the corruption you had then. What you have now are things that I believe would not develop into an indictment. I think that none of [the coalition factions] will take advantage of the situation and destabilize the government.”
When asked about allegations against Netanyahu, Hangebi said, “All of them are colorful and sound convincing, but I believe they are far from the reality. All of us should wait, with great patience and without mockery, and see how the investigations end.
“For now, we believe in the innocence of the prime minister, who was elected by the public in three consecutive elections to run the country’s affairs. The law dictates that if a prime minister is indicted, he stays in office,” Hanegbi added. “Only after there is a peremptory verdict [after an appeal to the Supreme Court] he has to go.”
Shas chairman and Interior Minister Arye Deri said his party will not support any other candidate in current Knesset if Netanyahu resigns due to an indictment.
“It will take many months until we know for sure,” Deri was quoted on Channel 2 news. “But if Netanyahu will have to resign, Shas will not participate in any other government of any other party chairman or candidate. If such scenario happens, we are going to elections.”