Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could stay in office even if he’s indicted as a result of one of the police investigations concerning him, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said Saturday night.
Meanwhile, two protests took place near Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit’s home in Petah Tikva for the 37th consecutive Saturday night – one calling for Mandelblit to indict the prime minister and attended by some 2,000 persons, and a pro-Netanyahu counter-demonstration organized by coalition chairman David Bitan and fellow Likud lawmakers and attended by some 150 persons.
Shaked pointed out on Channel 2’s Meet the Press that the law “refers to a case in which a prime minister is convicted, and in such a case it says the prime minister must be dismissed at the end of the process, after all the appeals.
“From the legal perspective, if there’s an indictment, the prime minister doesn’t have to resign,” Shaked explained. “There is the side of values, and that is a question that coalition parties will have to ask themselves if we reach that day, but we aren’t there. There’s still a long process.”
Shaked called for “letting the government and the prime minister do their jobs.”
The comments from the justice minister, who is in Bayit Yehudi, could serve as a response to a question by Labor Party chairman Avi Gabbay directed to Netanyahu’s coalition members.
“I don’t have any expectations of Netanyahu, but where are his partners in the government?” Gabbay tweeted. “They’re supposed to say it’s enough. This isn’t a matter of Left and Right.”
Culture Minister Miri Regev (Likud) said she has spoken to Netanyahu and he is confident that nothing serious will turn up in the investigations.
“Members of the opposition joined some of the media and are continuing to lynch the prime minister and his family in the media,” Regev wrote on Facebook. “The public well understands that they are trying to bring Netanyahu down in any way possible. It won’t work; Netanyahu will continue to be prime minister for many years.
“When will they learn that the government is changed at the ballot box, not in the media, the headlines or in an attempt to pressure the attorney- general and law enforcement. Cut out the bullshit! Let us work,” Regev said.
A handful of Likud legislators attended the pro-Netanyahu rally, and similarly attacked the Left and the media.
MK Nava Boker said: “The demonstrations of organizations and MKs from the Left are meant to pressure the attorney-general. They think that if they go near his house, wake up his children and disturb the peace on his street, they’ll bring about an indictment against the prime minister.
“The prime minister is innocent until it is proven otherwise.It’s hard for the Left to accept the voters’ decision, but it’s important that they understand that intentionally disturbing the peace will not change the government,” she said.
Demonstrators in Netanyahu’s favor held signs with messages such as “Stop the putsch attempt” and “We’re tired of the hypocrites.”
Likud MK Avi Dichter took the middle ground, telling Israel Radio on Friday that “if a prime minister or defense minister is indicted, the best thing to do is to leave their job, unless there is a special reason not to.”
Zionist Union MK Yoel Hasson participated in the rally calling for Mandelblit to indict Netanyahu, in which protesters were spotted holding signs that read “Corruption destroys democracy” and “The king has no clothes.”
Hasson said a prime minister who is under investigation must resign, even though Hasson was a Kadima lawmaker when then-prime minister Ehud Olmert was under investigation for corruption allegations for which he eventually went to prison and did not demand Olmert’s resignation.
“These are difficult days, and they will get even harder,” Hasson told the demonstrators. “People may call us traitors and conspirators working to bring down the prime minister, that every one of you is funded by some organization meant to get rid of Netanyahu. It won’t help. The truth is stronger than their threats.”
MK Eitan Cabel (Zionist Union) accused Netanyahu and his family of acting like royalty.
“Netanyahu’s leadership in recent years isn’t democratic. It endangers democracy and endangers us all. No one in the Netanyahu family is better than the Muallem family in Petah Tikva or the Levy family in Ra’anana or the Berkovich family in Eilat or the Halabi family in Daliat al-Carmel. The way in which they treat the Israeli public is shameful, inciting and condescending... We deserve better,” Cabel wrote on Facebook.
In Yesh Atid, MK Ofer Shelah said an indictment against the prime minister is not a matter of if, but of when.
“We have to let the police and the attorney-general take the necessary time to finish the investigation, but two state’s witnesses, one of whom is very close to Netanyahu [former chief of staff Ari Harow] and another connected to those closest to him [Miki Ganor, the Israel representative of German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp], show very well what is happening even before we hear them in court,” said Shelah.
He called for “the fair-minded people holding together this crumbling coalition,” such as Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who is the chairman of Kulanu, and senior Likud ministers who “are holding their noses and their mouths for fear of revenge,” to stop protecting Netanyahu, lest they fall along with him.
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On called for Netanyahu to resign until the investigations end. “MKs who are continuing to support the prime minister... and try to convince us that he is being persecuted are responsible for the corruption of the country and its democracy,” Gal-On said.