Former premier Ehud Barak on Saturday hurled sharp criticism at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accusing him of forsaking Israeli citizens and partnering with an extremist party to avoid prosecution in a series of corruption cases.
“The right-wing government is abandoning the citizens — and not only in the Gaza periphery,” Barak said at cultural event in Hod Hasharon.
“All of us must stop the alliance between the corrupt and the Kahanists. Netanyahu is leaning on this illegitimate group in order to escape from judgement,” he added.
Barak, who recently announced his return to politics and is running with the newly formed Democratic Camp alliance, was referring to Netanyahu’s reported efforts to again broker a merger of national-religious parties that includes the extremist Otzma Yehudit.
Members of Otzma Yehudit, which ran in April’s elections as part of the Union of Right-Wing Parties, are self-described disciples of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, who advocated violently expelling Arabs from Israel and the West Bank and once proposed legislation outlawing inter-ethnic sexual relations. Kahane’s Kach organization is classified as a terror group by the US and his political party is forbidden from running in Israeli elections.
The Union of Right-Wing Parties has championed legislation that would grant immunity to every member of parliament, likely shielding Netanyahu from prosecution in the three cases Attorney General Avichai Mandeblit has recommended he be charged in.
In response to Barak’s remarks, Netanyahu’s Likud party called on him to apologize “for being the most failed prime minister in Israel’s history,” according to Channel 13.
A number of other opposition figures also hit out at Netanyahu on Saturday, with Blue and White MK Ram Ben-Barak excoriating the prime minister for announcing last year that the Mossad agency managed to smuggle a large trove of nuclear files out of Iran.
“Displaying the archive from Iran was political and only in order to glorify Netanyahu’s name. This caused tremendous damages. They [the Iranians] had no idea that Mossad agents are strolling around there,” Ben-Barak, a former deputy Mossad chief, was quoted saying by the Kan public broadcaster at an event in Beersheba.
He also addressed a recent report detailing how a key witness in one of the graft cases involving Netanyahu told investigators that current Mossad chief Yossi Cohen purchased cigars for the premier while serving as his national security adviser, but was never reimbursed.
“Yossi Cohen has the skills to be Mossad chief. To feel good with myself and with what is happening at the highest levels of the state, I want to believe that he got the job because of his skills,” Ben-Barak said.
Both Netanyahu and Cohen have denied the report.
Netanyahu faces charges of fraud and breach of trust in all three of the cases he is a suspect in, as well as bribery in one of them.
Netanyahu’s pre-indictment hearing with Mandelblit is scheduled for October 2-3, after the attorney general declined last month to delay it due to the September 17 elections.
Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing and says he is the victim of a political witch hunt.