Critics slam Netanyahu as Bezeq graft case gains steam

Critics slam Netanyahu as Bezeq graft case gains steam

Ex-defense minister Ya'alon decries Likud members' 'silence of the lambs'; Meretz chief Galon says Netanyahu's 'systemic' corruption turned Israel into oligarch's paradise

Moshe Ya'alon (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Moshe Ya'alon (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon on Saturday called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign over the deepening corruption suspicions against him, saying that Israel deserves more than his failed leadership and “politics of survival.”

Responding to reports that police have “solid” evidence of Netanyahu’s corruption, Ya’alon also leveled harsh criticism against the prime minister’s fellow Likud members for blindly supporting him.

“I see this ‘silence of the lambs’ in the Likud; Are all of them so motivated by their own shortsighted considerations of survival, that we are enslaving our values ​and national interests?” Ya’alon asked at a cultural event in Tel Aviv.

“I think that anyone with eyes should call on Netanyahu to resign or initiate the dismantling of the coalition and call new elections,” he added.

“The country looks the way it does because its leaders are preoccupied with issues of political survival,” Ya’alon said. “The time has come for us to have a prime minister who doesn’t need to be questioned. The time has come to get Israel back on track.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon during a joint press conference at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem regarding the recent wave of terror in Israel, October 8, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Ya’alon, a former IDF chief of staff, joined the Likud in November 2008, serving the party in the Knesset from 2009 to 2016, the last four years of which he was defense minister. Last year, he resigned the party citing the “extremist and dangerous forces” that he said were hijacking Israel and the Likud movement.

Shortly after leaving the Likud, Ya’alon revealed plans to form his own party, which he said would represent the “responsible right,” and would challenge Netanyahu in the next elections.

At a separate cultural event on Saturday, Meretz Chairwoman Zehava Galon said Netanyahu is getting rich helping his cronies rob the country.

“Anyone who’s seen the movie Inside Man knows that for a perfect heist, you need a person on the inside to help you. For the last 10 years, Netanyahu has been the inside man for those who have been robbing Israel.”

She went on to accuse Netanyahu of “systemic corruption,” and said he turned Israel into a “paradise or oligarchs.”

On Friday, officials involved in the Bezeq corruption probe said that Netanyahu will be hard-pressed to explain away the “concrete” suspicions and “solid” evidence against him, Hadashot TV news reported.

Officials also told Hadashot that suspicions against Netanyahu in the investigation, known as Case 4000, are more serious than those ascribed to him in previous cases 1000 and 2000 — in both of which police have recommended he be indicted for fraud, breach of trust, and bribery.

Meretz party chairwoman Zehava Galon seen during a finance committee meeting at the Knesset, on September 11, 2017. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Police investigators believe the evidence they have, including testimonies, physical evidence, and audio tapes, directly ties Netanyahu and his wife to the alleged crimes, according to Hadashot.

One unnamed source told the TV station the case has “a very clear bottom line,” and that investigators do not see a way for Netanyahu to explain the evidence gathered against him. Another said the prime minister had been caught lying in previous rounds of questioning — relating to the investigations of cases 1000 and 2000.

According to the report, Netanyahu and his wife Sara, who were questioned separately in the Bezeq probe on Friday for five hours each, are both likely to face further interrogation in the case.

The Bezeq case, also known as Case 4000, involves suspicions that Shaul Elovitch, chief shareholder of telecommunications giant Bezeq, ordered the Walla news site, which he also owns, to grant fawning coverage to the Netanyahus in exchange for the prime minister’s advancement of regulations benefiting him.

Hebrew media reported that the two were questioned under caution as suspects in the case. Asked to confirm whether the prime minister or his wife were being treated as criminal suspects, a police spokesman remained vague, telling The Times of Israel only that the interrogations took place “in general as part of the investigation.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara attend the inauguration of a new emergency ward at the Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon, on February 20, 2018. (Flash90)

Last month, police recommended that the prime minister be indicted for a series of serious corruption charges including bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in two other cases.

In Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife are suspected of receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, amounting to some NIS 1 million ($282,000) worth of cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian resort owner James Packer in return for certain benefits.

Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid-pro-quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper 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 denies any wrongdoing in these cases.

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