Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu went on the offensive Tuesday, attacking a senior cabinet member, assumed to be Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, for “undermining him,” and allegedly planning to replace him should he be forced to resign amidst multiple corruption scandals.
“He can continue to make plans for replacing me all he wants,” Netanyahu said. “We’ve heard about a ‘senior Likud minister.’ Let him go on making plans. You all know who it is. Can we say his name out loud yet? Where’s the shame in saying his name?!”
Public broadcaster ‘Kan’ said Netanyahu had reportedly told party activists that political elements to his right are trying to topple his government before adding “I don’t know what they want from me.”
“I don’t see there is any problem here,” Netanyahu said. “We are talking about bribery and breach of trust with respect to Case 2000 (the accusation that he colluded with Yedioth Achronoth publisher to promote legislation to close the Yisrael Hayom newspaper, a pro-Netanyahu competitor to Yedioth, in exchange for favorable coverage).
“There are 40 people who voted in favor of a bill to close the newspaper Yisrael Hayom and they are accusing me of bribery and breach of trust? Is anyone investigating them? What led them to propose this law” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu spoke to party members ahead of a rally, to be held Wednesday, called to rally support for the prime minister in the face of the ongoing police investigations. Earlier this week, Coalition Chairman Bitan warned Likud ministers and MKs that they must attend the rally, after warning last week that ministers who don’t support Netanyahu “would get hurt” politically.
Netanyahu also dispatched coalition Whip David Bitan to defend him in a feature interview with the Hebrew-language Ynet news site. In a studio interview Tuesday, Bitan defended making the threat, saying that the Likud ministers have Netanyahu to thank for their jobs, and appearing satisfied that his threats had worked.
“(The ministers who felt Netanyahu should step down) have fallen into line,… the DNA of the Likud is that you don’t switch prime ministers unless he steps down. Likud members aren’t happy with what’s going on, so yes, I was right. They (the ministers) will get hurt if they continue along that path,” Bitan said.
The coalition whip went on to attack the media for a “witch hunt” against Netanyahu stretching back to his first stint as prime minister. But he also offered a change from Netanyahu’s original claim that the investigations “won’t reveal anything because there is nothing to reveal.”
Now, however, Bitan said “Obviously, something happened if the police are investigating. And Bibi admitted accepting cigars. But the important part here is the second half of the sentence: It won’t lead to anything,” Bitan said.