Amsalem accuses fellow Likud MK Barkat of bribery; ex-mayor’s associates: ‘Slander’

Outspoken opposition lawmaker offers no evidence for claim, says ‘people like that should be jailed’; Barkat’s associates slam ‘baseless lies,’ say Amsalem is harming party unity

David Amsalem (L) and Nir Barkat (R) (Flash90)
David Amsalem (L) and Nir Barkat (R) (Flash90)

Outspoken MK David Amsalem attacked fellow Likud lawmaker Nir Barkat on Friday, accusing him of bribery and saying “people like that” should be jailed.

Amsalem, who did not present any evidence for his claim, was discussing the ongoing passage of a law for campaign financing that is widely seen as targeting Barkat.

Barkat, a former mayor of Jerusalem, has long sought to position himself as a successor to opposition and Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, to the dismay of the former prime minister’s loyalists.

“Nir Barkat does not scare anyone. This is a person who joined the Likud two years ago,” Amsalem told Channel 13 news.

“The story is the money, take the money out of the equation and hello, hello. There is nothing to prevent him from sending a check for NIS 2,000 [approximately $640] to every citizen in Israel. Barkat should be asked why he opposes the law. He is not an activist — he bribes people with money. It is illegal — people like that should be in jail today,” Amsalem said.

Barkat famously declined to take his salary and accepts only one shekel a year. His net worth has been estimated to be around NIS 500 million ($160 million).

Sources close to Barkat responded to the criticism on Friday,

“Unfortunately, Dudi Amsalem continues to serve the interests of [Prime Minister Naftali] Bennett, [Foreign Minister Yair] Lapid and [Justice Minister Gideon] Sa’ar,” the unnamed sources said, using the Likud MK’s nickname.

“He has opened fire and is harming Likud unity, spreading baseless slander and lies. A member of the Likud party does not discredit another member of the Likud, but nobody expects Dudi Amsalem to respect the members of the movement,” the source said.

MK David Amsalem (R) and then-Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat in Jerusalem, on June 6, 2016 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Amsalem frequently comes under criticism for his use of harsh language against political opponents.

The Netanyahu loyalist is an outspoken critic of Barkat, putting forward the first version of a bill that was widely viewed as targeting the former mayor.

Last month, the Knesset approved in a preliminary reading a different version of that bill aimed at limiting the ability of wealthy candidates to self-finance their political campaigns.

The bill has become known as the “Barkat Law,” as it is widely viewed as targeting the MK, who is believed to be the wealthiest Knesset member and is seen as a potential successor to Netanyahu as leader of the opposition party.

The legislation would bar officials running for public office — and their family members — from contributing more than NIS 100,000 ($32,000) per year to their own campaigns.

The Knesset voted down a version of the bill put forward by Amsalem and then approved one issued by New Hope MK Sharren Haskel, 64-17.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said the coalition should not support the legislation by Amsalem, but rather the version from Haskel, since the firebrand Likud MK “leads a violent and abusive discourse in the Knesset plenum and shames the status of the Knesset.”

Benjamin Netanyahu and David Amsalem during a Likud faction meeting in the Knesset, on November 19, 2018. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Barkat responded to the bill, saying that the legislation showed how scared his political opponents were.

Last month Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also went after Barkat, criticizing him for his constant trips to Washington, ostensibly to lobby against reopening the US consulate in Jerusalem that serves Palestinians.

“When it comes to the consulate, I generally don’t have any particular opinion on internal Likud disputes,” said Bennett. “As they say — best of luck to both sides. But MK Nir Barkat, who is trying, if I understand correctly, to challenge Netanyahu, was advised to make a lot of noise about the issue of the consulate in Jerusalem.”

“Go to Washington, come back from Washington, gather forces, it’s a big issue,” Bennett mocked. “You’re making a lot of noise, but what you did left Israel in a worse position.”

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