Likud MK Barkat calls for patience on Netanyahu plea decision

Netanyahu faced criticism over the weekend from former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eizenkot, who is likely to enter politics soon.

BARKAT TAKES an election-night photo with a Bibi-masked man at Likud Party headquarters in Tel Aviv on March 2. (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
BARKAT TAKES an election-night photo with a Bibi-masked man at Likud Party headquarters in Tel Aviv on March 2.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

MK Nir Barkat, the leading candidate in the polls to succeed opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu as head of Likud, addressed Netanyahu’s negotiations on a plea agreement for the first time on Friday.

Barkat said he had made a point of being silent and refusing interviews because he felt obligated to enable Netanyahu to make his decision without unnecessary pressure.

“I have supported Netanyahu for many years to run the country and the party, and I also support him now and will respect any decision he makes with his family,” said Barkat. “These days are not easy for him, so I want to strengthen him. Especially now, we are stronger if united and only together can we topple our bad government and return the national camp to power.”

Barkat’s comment was seen as criticism of fellow Likud leadership candidate Israel Katz, who has been quoted as saying that the race for Likud leader has already started and that Netanyahu will leave the party leadership sooner than expected.

Bnei Brak City Council member Yaakov Veeder began a petition drive in the Likud central committee over the weekend asking Netanyahu to remain party leader even if he quits the Knesset.

 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement before entering the district court room where he is facing a trial for alleged corruption crimes, in Jerusalem May 24 2020.  (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/REUTERS) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement before entering the district court room where he is facing a trial for alleged corruption crimes, in Jerusalem May 24 2020. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/REUTERS)

The Likud’s bylaws require the party leader to be its candidate for prime minister, which would make it harder for Netanyahu to stay Likud chairman if he admits to a crime that would prevent him from running.

If Netanyahu does quit, the head of the central committee, MK Haim Katz, would be the interim head of the party, unless the central committee chooses someone else.

There would then be primaries among the 150,000 Likud members to elect a new leader within three months.

Netanyahu faced criticism over the weekend from former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot, whose three-year cooling off period ends soon. Eisenkot is likely to enter politics ahead of the next election.

In an interview with the Maariv newspaper’s Ben Caspit, Eisenkot was also critical of former prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon and current Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Eisenkot came out strongly in favor of taking steps to separate from the Palestinians.