1,500 turn out in Tel Aviv to protest government corruption

1,500 turn out in Tel Aviv to protest government corruption

Former Shin Bet chief calls on Moshe Kahlon to bolt coalition in light of the burgeoning suspicions against Netanyahu

Israelis attend a weekly protest against public corruption in Tel Aviv on February 16, 2018 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Israelis attend a weekly protest against public corruption in Tel Aviv on February 16, 2018 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Some 1,500 people turned out Saturday night for a weekly demonstration in Tel Aviv against public corruption, in the wake of police recommendations to try Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for graft and the emergence of a new investigation involving two of his closest aides.

Carmi Gillon, a former head of the Shin Bet security service, appealed to Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon to pull his Kulanu party out of the governing coalition in light of the suspicions against Netanyahu.

Acknowledging that he had voted for Kulanu in the 2015 elections, Gillon called on Kahlon, “You’re an intelligent person and you have integrity. What’s turning you into a rhinoceros who forgoes his honesty?”

Earlier Saturday, the head of the opposition Zionist Union said Netanyahu must resign if he is questioned as a suspect in a criminal case involving suspected corruption in the multi-billion-shekel purchase of submarines and other naval vessels from a German shipbuilder.

“If Netanyahu is questioned under caution in the submarine affair he must resign,” Avi Gabbay said at a cultural event at Kibbutz Yagur. “The mixture of corruption in state security will lead the Germans to cancel the submarine deal and directly harm our security.”

While Netanyahu has not been named as a suspect in so-called Case 3000, a Hadashot TV news report on Friday said Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has authorized investigators to take testimony from Netanyahu next week in the probe, and — if the need arises — to question him under caution.

A number of close associates of Netanyahu’s, including his two personal lawyers, have been arrested or questioned in the case.

Benjamin Netanyahu touring the INS Tanin submarine, built by the German firm ThyssenKrupp, as it arrived in Israel on September 23, 2014. (Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90)

The TV report said investigators may also question the prime minister in the Bezeq corruption probe, known as Case 4000.

Hadashot reported that police are interested in getting Netanyahu’s version of events surrounding Case 4000 as soon as possible, as officials believe key suspects in the case, several of whom have been in jail all week, could soon be released home, and could then begin communicating with one another to coordinate their statements.

In Case 4000, Netanyahu is alleged to have provided regulatory benefits to Israel’s largest telephone company, Bezeq, in exchange for Bezeq’s chief shareholder, Shaul Elovitch, giving Netanyahu and his family positive coverage on the Walla news site, which Elovitch owns.

Netanyahu has increasingly faced opposition calls to resign as investigations into his conduct have intensified. Last week, police recommended that Netanyahu be indicted for fraud, breach of trust, and bribery in two cases.

In Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife are alleged to have received illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, most notably the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, totaling NIS 1 million ($282,000). In return, Netanyahu is alleged by police to have intervened on Milchan’s behalf in matters relating to legislation, business dealings, and visa arrangements.

Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes that would have seen the prime minister weaken a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing in all the cases.

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