Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out at the police recommendations to indict him and the police’s central witness, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, in an address to the Federation of Local Authorities convention at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds on Wednesday.
Netanyahu said Lapid was employed by Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, yet as finance minister dealt with issues related to him without excusing himself due to the conflict of interest.
“Had I done that, I would have been interrogated under caution seven times,” Netanyahu said. “But the world has been turned upside down. I got recommendations and Lapid got applause.”
Lapid responded that a few months ago the police asked him to come and give evidence in Case 1000, and like any law-abiding citizen who is asked by the police to help them get to the truth, he went and answered all their questions. He said he acted against Milchan’s interests and Netanyahu worked in favor of them, when the prime minister tried to advance a bill that would create a tax shelter for millionaires and he opposed it.
Israeli police recommend bribery charges against Netanyahu, February 13, 2018 (Reuters)
“I refused to advance what is known as the ‘second Milchan bill,’ despite the pressures, because I work for the citizens of Israel,” Lapid said. “I work only for them, not for any tycoon and not for the interests of any politician, however senior he might be.”
Lapid said he is not happy to see Netanyahu in the midst of legal challenges. He called upon Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to speed up, as much as possible, the process and decision of whether to indict Netanyahu.
“I, like the prime minister, would prefer to challenge him at the ballot box,” Lapid said. “It is a sad day for every citizen when the prime minister of Israel is accused of serious criminal offenses.
“Having said that, the prime minister must exhibit national responsibility. You cannot be prime minister, foreign minister and health minister while you spend most of your time with your lawyers or responding to the press. You cannot represent us in the world, when every foreign leader knows that you stand accused of serious offenses. For the good of the citizens of Israel, the prime minister needs to vacate his post.”
A survey by pollsters Mina Tzemach and Mano Geva broadcast on Channel 2 Wednesday night found that Netanyahu’s Likud had risen one Knesset seat, from 25 to 26, and Yesh Atid had fallen by two, from 24 to 22, since the last survey taken by the pollsters on January 13. Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party rose two seats in the new poll, from seven to nine.
In the Channel 2 poll, 45% of the public said Netanyahu should quit and 40% said he should not.
A separate poll taken by pollster Camille Fuchs for Channel 10 found that 50% believe Netanyahu should quit or suspend himself, while 42% believe he should continue as normal.
In the Channel 10 poll, 34% said they believe Netanyahu’s assertion that the police are part of a conspiracy to topple him, and 53% said they do not believe it.
Netanyahu said in his speech to the convention that after reading the police recommendations, he found them ugly, extremist and full of holes like Swiss cheese. He said the recommendations in Case 1000, the “expensive gift affair,” failed to take into account his 20 years of friendship with Milchan which included gifts going both ways, and exaggerated the value of the gifts from Milchan.
“The police ignored the facts I gave them on how I actually acted against the interests of Milchan,” Netanyahu said. “I broke his monopoly on importing auto parts, which was worth a huge amount. I worked to close Channel 10, which would make his stock in the channel worth nothing. I work for the Israeli economy and society. I am working against Milchan, not for him.”
On Case 2000, the so-called newspaper collusion affair, Netanyahu said the police should investigate whether former justice minister Tzipi Livni, now a Zionist Union MK, used the post to help Yediot Aharonot publisher Arnon Mozes.
The prime minister said his governing coalition remains stable and that neither he nor anyone in his coalition intends to initiate an election.
“We will work together until the end of the term,” he said.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, who was due to speak at the convention, stormed out due to Netanyahu’s criticism of the police.
“I didn’t want to be part of Bibi’s show,” he said.