Labor and Social Affairs Minister Haim Katz resigned from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet on Friday to concentrate on fighting charges of fraud and breach of trust in his indictment that Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit announced on Wednesday.
According to the announcement, Katz violated conflict of interest principles on several occasions in his economic dealings with Equital Ltd.’s Motti Ben-Ari, and covered it up to obtain illegal economic gains for the two of them. Mandelblit informed Katz that he should resign, and that if Katz would try to maintain immunity from prosecution as a member of Knesset, the attorney-general would ask the Knesset to remove the immunity.Katz rejected Mandelblit’s ruling in his resignation letter and vowed to clear his name. He will remain a Likud Party MK and is expected to be reelected in the September 17 election.“In everything I have done as a minister and a Knesset member, I have operated professionally and ethically on behalf of the public,” Katz wrote in the letter. “Serving the public is the mission of my life, so I will continue to serve the citizens in any way I can.”Blue and White leader Benny Gantz responded that Katz did the right thing by resigning, but urged both Katz and Netanyahu not to seek immunity from prosecution.“The very fact that immunity is being sought from criminal indictments for corruption in cases of public service demonstrates the ethical nadir that Israel has reached following a decade of Netanyahu’s rule,” Gantz wrote on Twitter. “We did not let Katz be immune from prosecution, nor will we let Netanyahu.”The candidates to replace Katz in the cabinet are expected to include Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely and MKs David Bitan and Nir Barkat. Hotovely wished him well on Friday and said she should get the post because religious-Zionists in Likud deserve representation in the cabinet.Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to his report.