Labor party leader Avi Gabbay on Saturday said the upcoming national election was a choice between the survival of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the survival of the country as a lawful nation.
“This election campaign is about Netanyahu’s [political] life versus the country’s life,” Gabbay said at a cultural event in the central city of Modiin.
After Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on Thursday announced his intention to indict the premier for fraud, breach of trust and bribery in three corruption probes, Netanyahu attacked the decision as a politically motivated one concocted by top prosecutors and encouraged by his enemies on the left and in the media. The Justice Ministry rejected Netanyahu’s accusations as “baseless and misleading.”
Mandelblit said of the decision: “This is definitely not a happy day, but it is a very important day for a society that upholds the rule of law.”
The Labor leader said Saturday that “Netanyahu is in effect telling Israeli citizens that the law-keeping system is illegitimate. This is a complete dismantling of state institutions and it is horrible.”
Surveys released Friday night indicated Netanyahu may be narrowly unable to form a governing coalition after the April 9 elections, with former IDF chief Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party continuing to lead over Netanyahu’s Likud by 6-7 seats in projected election results, and the right-wing party bloc falling to a minority of 59 seats in the 120-member legislature.
After the charges were announced Thursday, Gantz said joining a coalition led by Netanyahu following the vote was “not on the table,” and called on the prime minister to resign immediately.
Gabbay criticized Gantz’s language on Saturday, saying he should have issued a clearer rebuke.
“After the charges against Netanyahu were revealed, Gantz should have simply said ‘We will not join a government led by Netanyahu because of his methods, because we have different ideals. But Gantz’s response used different words like ‘not at present’ or ‘not on the table,'” Gabbay said.
Netanyahu will be charged with fraud and breach of trust in Cases 1000 and 2000, and fraud, breach of trust and bribery in Case 4000.
Mandelblit’s decision is not final. Netanyahu will have an opportunity to overturn it in a hearing expected to take place in the months following Election Day on April 9. The process could take up to a year.
Reactions to the decision fell along party lines, with parties on the center-left saying the prime minister must step down, and right-wing factions vowing to continue to back the premier.