Gantz says if he were PM, he’d step down if indicted

Gantz says if he were PM, he’d step down if indicted

Blue and White chief’s vow comes after criminal probe opened into firm he once headed, although AG indicates he’s not a suspect; also promises to push for term limits for PMs

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz speaks to supporters in Tel Aviv on February 20, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz speaks to supporters in Tel Aviv on February 20, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz said that if he were prime minister he would resign if indicted on criminal charges, which he has repeatedly called for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to do.

“If an indictment is filed against me while serving as prime minister, I won’t continue in my position,” Gantz said in a clip from an interview aired Friday by Channel 12 news.

The comments came a day after Acting State Attorney Dan Eldad ordered a criminal investigation into Fifth Dimension, a cybersecurity firm that was led by Gantz before going bankrupt.

The case involves suspicions that police may have violated acquisition laws by forgoing a tender in its dealings with Fifth Dimension and that the company presented law enforcement with false information about its operations.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit indicated Gantz, a former IDF chief of staff, is not a suspect.

Netanyahu, who will stand trial next month on corruption charges, has seized on the new investigation to hammer Blue and White for its championing of clean governance ahead of the upcoming elections.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem on February 16, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

“Benny Gantz and Fifth Dimension, which he headed, are now in the center of very serious criminal investigation,” Netanyahu said in a video statement Friday.

The premier added: “This is Benny Gantz’s only experience in civilian life. By the way, not only is criminal activity being investigated now, but also bankruptcy.”

The investigation into Fifth Dimension comes less than two weeks before national elections and during a campaign by Gantz’s party that has tried to focus attention on Netanyahu’s indictment for corruption charges.

Gantz has denied wrongdoing and accused Netanyahu’s Likud party of pushing for the probe to distract from the premier’s corruption trial.

“I have a lot of faith in the law enforcement system and I respect any probe they want to do. Moreover, I welcome any investigation into the matter of Fifth Dimension,” Gantz wrote Friday on Facebook.

He said that if he forms the next government, Blue and White will push for a package of laws that includes a term limit for prime ministers and bars them from continuing in office if indicted. Netanyahu has been prime minister in total for nearly 14 years, making him Israel’s longest-serving premier.

“Netanyahu will do everything to escape from trial,” Gantz said.

A Blue and White party campaign poster is seen on February 18, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Israel goes to the polls on March 2, the third national vote in less than a year after two elections in 2019 ended inconclusively, with neither Netanyahu or Gantz able to forge a coalition government. Pre-election surveys have predicted similar results in next month’s vote, potentially extending the deadlock.

It’s not clear if the reports over Fifth Dimension will move the needle in any way. The months leading up to the campaign have been marked by other bombshells, including the unveiling of US President Donald Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan and the setting of a date for the beginning of Netanyahu’s corruption trial, which have not dramatically affected opinion polls.

Netanyahu has been charged with bribery, breach of trust and fraud in three cases in which he is accused of receiving lavish gifts from billionaire friends and of exchanging regulatory favors with media moguls for more palatable media coverage of him and his family.

Netanyahu denies wrongdoing and claims the charges have been trumped up by a hostile justice system, police and media out to get him.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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