Thu, Feb 15, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Key coalition allies back Netanyahu for time being

Reuters and AP, JERUSALEM

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the Muni World conference in Tel Aviv yesterday.

Photo: AFP

Key coalition partners yesterday said they would stick with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for now, pending a decision by the attorney general whether to indict him for bribery as recommended by police.

A decision could take months and Netanyahu’s government appeared stable for the time being.

The right-wing prime minister has strongly denied the police allegations, calling them “full of holes, like Swiss cheese.”

“I want to reassure you, the coalition is stable. No one, not I, not anyone else, has plans to go to an election,” Netanyahu told a conference in Tel Aviv yesterday.

“We will continue to work with you for the good of Israel’s citizens until the end of the term,” he said.

Police on Tuesday said they had found sufficient evidence for the 68-year-old Netanyahu to be charged with bribery in two separate cases, presenting him with one of the biggest challenges to his long dominance of Israeli politics.

Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing in both cases.

With political signals that the government remained solid, Israeli markets rose yesterday.

Israeli Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman, who heads the ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, said that as long as Netanyahu was not convicted, he should stay in office.

“Truly, right now we are operating in a very synchronized way,” he said. “There is no place here for maneuvering, for any other considerations.”

Israeli Minister of Education Naftali Bennett, who heads the far-right Jewish Home party, told the gathering: “I have decided to wait until the decision of the attorney general... Regarding the moral aspect, the public will decide on voting day.”

Israeli Minister of Finace Moshe Kahlon, who heads the centrist Kulanu party, said he would do the same.

Avraham Diskin, a political science professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said none of Netanyahu’s coalition partners had any incentive to rock the boat.

“We don’t see for the time being any sign of defectors from the coalition. Maybe individuals will defect,” Diskin said. “I don’t see any kind of collapse in the foreseeable future.”

Signaling business as usual, Netanyahu has not changed his plan to attend the annual Munich security conference that begins tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Israeli opposition politicians are calling on Netanyahu to resign.

Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay said that Netanyahu’s coalition allies need to choose between supporting the prime minister and upholding the rule of law.

Meretz party leader Zehava Gal-on said Kahlon and Bennett — both key coalition partners — should “show Netanyahu the way out.”

Ofer Shelah, a lawmaker with the opposition Yesh Atid party, said that criticism of his party’s leader, Yair Lapid — a key witness in the case against Netanyahu — is “an attempt to divert the conversation from what happened.”

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