Varied reactions to the police’s recommendations on Tuesday night to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust fell along party lines.
Politicians from the Center- Left said that Netanyahu must resign or suspend himself, and Netanyahu’s loyalists accused the police of conspiring with Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid to overthrow the prime minister.
Lapid is a key witness in Case 1000 against Netanyahu in which police say he acted to promote a bill that would benefit Israeli citizens returning from abroad regarding tax payments on behalf of Arnon Milchan. Lapid was finance minister at the time.
Lapid responded on Tuesday night that “in a properly run country, a man facing such serious charges cannot remain prime minister and in charge of the security of Israeli citizens, especially since he does not even deny some of the charges.”
Lapid said he was glad he had refused to back a law that would have aided Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, and that “Yesh Atid was the final roadblock against corruption.”
In defense of the prime minister, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (Likud) called the police recommendations “a shameful step toward revolution against the will of the voters.” He said it was especially shameful that the central witness against Netanyahu was Lapid, who lost to him twice in elections.
“I have no doubt the truth will come to the light and the government will continue to lead Israel according to the ideology of Likud under Netanyahu,” Levin said.
Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev (Likud) said the recommendations revealed that Lapid was “a failed politician who preferred to join those who hoisted the guillotine at the political protests and topple Netanyahu and the Likud in an undemocratic manner. She expressed hope that the publication of his identity as the central witness would be “the final nail in his political coffin.”
Former prime minister Ehud Barak called the police recommendations “frightening and disgusting” and mocked Netanyahu’s defense that “there would be to nothing.”
“This is not what ‘nothing’ looks like,” Barak said in a message he posted on social media.
“This is what bribery looks like. Netanyahu must declare that he is suspending himself by the morning and [Attorney-General Avichai] Mandelblit must shift to a faster gear.”
Lapid did not react by press time.
Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay said, “The Netanyahu era is over,” and “Netanyahu harmed the police and legal institutions more than anyone probed ever had before.”
The party’s faction head, Yoel Hasson, wrote to Mandelblit asking him to set a deadline for his decision on whether to indict Netanyahu.
His Zionist Union colleague, MK Stav Shaffir, asked her coalition partners: “If you have a drop of concern for the future, fulfill your duty and free Israel from this craziness.”
Zionist Union MK Eyal Ben-Reuven said Netanyahu must resign, not just suspend himself.
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On said that Education Minister (and Bayit Yehudi head) Naftali Bennett and Finance Minister (and Kulanu leader) Moshe Kahlon must “show Netanyahu the door, otherwise, his corruption will stick to them.” She called on the prime minister to leave public life and devote himself to his legal affairs as a private citizen.
Meretz faction head Ilan Gilon called upon coalition partners to form an alternative coalition without Netanyahu and vowed that the opposition would grant it 100 days of grace.
Coalition chairman David Amsalem (Likud) said: “No democratic nation in this world would dare or think of summoning a sitting prime minister and questioning him if he accepted wine bottles, cigars or chocolate from a friend.” Amsalem said that the police “did everything to achieve their goal” and that in a democracy, the government is changed in the ballot and not with the police or armed forces.
Haggay Hacohen contributed to this report.