Prime Minister Netanyahu, Tzachi Braverman, and Yisrael Katz at security cabinet meeting.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked politicians from his party who have defended him in the media since his former chief of staff, Ari Harow, turned state’s witness against him on Friday, but sources close to Netanyahu revealed he was actually infuriated by the slow show of support from Likud members of his cabinet.
“I am thankful to those who gave interviews,” Netanyahu said at the start of Sunday’s Likud ministerial meeting.
Likud ministers told The Jerusalem Post that they felt uncomfortable defending Netanyahu, because they believed he made mistakes he should not have made and they did not want to be associated with those mistakes.
At the time of that meeting, the only Likud ministers who had defended Netanyahu in the media were Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev, Communications Minister Ayoub Kara and Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi.
“There has been an attempted lynching by the press and the opposition, who are trying to topple Netanyahu,” Regev said. “Governments are replaced in the ballot box, not in investigations.”
Hanegbi told radio stations that because the legal process in Israel works very slowly, he did not believe there would be an indictment of Netanyahu before the next general election.
Hanegbi, who has been convicted himself, said he did not believe there would be a court decision in any of the cases against the prime minister that would legally force him to leave office for three or four years.
Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz added his name to the list of Netanyahu defenders on Sunday morning, after turning down repeated overtures from media outlets.
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should be allowed to fulfill his duties in accordance with the mandate he received from the public, in a state of law and democratic rule, not to dismiss a prime minister based on media headlines, opposition demonstrations or partial investigative procedures,” Katz said.
“I trust the law enforcement system will carry out its work with the professionalism and responsibility required to enable the State of Israel to continue to deal adequately with the complex challenges it faces.”
In the afternoon others, including Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, entered the fray.
“The prime minister is leading the State of Israel with responsibility and professionalism and he must be given support against the political and media attacks against him,” Erdan said. “The leftwing parties have been failing in the ballot boxes for many years, but they must understand that there is no way to bypass the will of the voters with unacceptable pressure.”
National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz and Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel added their voices, backing Netanyahu in radio interviews in the evening.
Coalition chairman David Bitan had threatened that revenge would be taken in the next Likud primary against Likud politicians who did not support the prime minister.
“I believe in the prime minister, and I hope that it will all soon be behind us,” Gamliel said.
All the Likud’s ministers and MKs will reportedly be invited to a pro-Netanyahu rally in Tel Aviv Wednesday night.
Netanyahu also received backing Sunday afternoon from Bayit Yehudi head Naftali Bennett, who said he wanted Netanyahu and the nationalist camp to stay in power.
“Israel requires stability and we grant our support,” Bennett said. “The prime minster is innocent until proven guilty, and I hope his investigation ends with no conviction.”
By contrast, Labor chairman Avi Gabbay told Army Radio Sunday that he believes the public has tired of leaders tainted by corruption and wrongdoing. But he said he had few expectations from Netanyahu’s allies to stand for the rule of law because it doesn’t serve them politically at the moment.
Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon slammed Netanyahu on Twitter, saying there was a “war” going on over the character of the leadership of the Right.
“The Right is an ideology, not one man, and the Likud is a party, not the man who heads it,” he said.