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‘Israeli Trump’ calls for court to order probe of Netanyahu

In strident video, Erel Margalit accuses PM of corruption over ThyssenKrupp scandals and of using state as his ‘ATM’

Then-MK Erel Margalit speaks at a conference he organized in Tel Aviv on May 22, 2016. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Then-MK Erel Margalit speaks at a conference he organized in Tel Aviv on May 22, 2016. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

An outspoken opposition lawmaker released a video on Sunday in which he accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his inner circle of using the levers of power to enrich themselves while undermining Israel’s security.

Erel Margalit (Zionist Union) made waves earlier this year with an angry video tirade against Netanyahu and the ruling Likud party that drew comparisons in the media to the combative style of US President-elect Donald Trump. For Sunday’s video, he teamed up with Labor Party activist and anti-Netanyahu crusader Eldad Yaniv to call on the public to join a High Court of Justice petition to investigate Netanyahu over alleged misdeeds in recent weapons deals with the German company ThyssenKrupp.

The German industrial giant has been in the news in Israel following the revelation last month that Netanyahu’s personal lawyer had a part in pushing Thyssenkrupp’s interests in Israel, in what may constitute a conflict of interest.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has ordered the police to look into allegations that David Shimron used his close relationship with the premier to push Israel to purchase several submarines from ThyssenKrupp, award the company a contract for naval vessels to defend Israel’s gas fields, and allow it to run a shipyard in Israel.

Channel 2 television said the police inquiry — which is not yet a full-blown investigation — would focus not on the purchase of three Dolphin submarines from the Germany company, which has dominated the headlines, but rather on a separate 2014 Defense Ministry tender for naval ships, also involving ThyssenKrupp, to protect the Mediterranean natural gas fields.

The INS Rahav, a Dolphin class made by German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp, sets off from the German port of Kiel toward Haifa, December 17, 2015. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
The INS Rahav, a Dolphin class made by German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp, sets off from the German port of Kiel toward Haifa, December 17, 2015. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

ThyssenKrupp also made headlines in Israel after it was revealed that the Iran Foreign Investment Company held a 4.5 percent stake in the conglomerate.

In Margalit’s video (Hebrew), which is peppered throughout with pictures of Netanyahu’s ostensibly lavish lifestyle and newspapers headlines detailing various scandals involving the prime minister, Margalit and Yaniv rail against what they call Netanyahu’s use of state coffers as “a personal cash box” and “ATM” for himself and his associates, and accuse the prime minister of “selling out” Israel’s security and “ripping us off” with the ThyssenKrupp deals in exchange for personal enrichment.

Margalit also criticizes “Netanyahu’s wailing in Congress over Iran,” while simultaneously “making deals with them with his other hand,” in reference to the Iranian stake in ThyssenKrupp, which has reportedly netted Iran close to $100 million dollars over the past decade.

Saying that the attorney general and police chief won’t take action against Netanyahu since “he has them by the balls,” Margalit and Yaniv call on the public “to stop whining,” “get off the couch” and join a petition calling on the High Court of Justice to order an investigation into Netanyahu over the ThyssenKrupp affair.

Under Israeli law, any citizen can file an appeal with the High Court of Justice over any government action claimed to be in violation of the law.

Activist Eldad Yaniv in Tel Aviv on February 8, 2015 (Ben Kelmer/FLASH90)
Activist Eldad Yaniv in Tel Aviv on February 8, 2015 (Ben Kelmer/FLASH90)

Margalit, whose video campaign has been construed to augur a future push for the top spot of the Labor Party, the largest faction in the Zionist Union, has tried to fashion himself over the past year as a straight-talking politician unafraid of taking on the establishment.

Yaniv, a former top adviser to prime minister Ehud Barak, has in recent years fashioned himself as a whistle-blower, TV pundit, and vociferous critic of Netanyahu. Having failed in the 2015 elections to get into the Knesset on the Zionist Union ticket, he devoted himself to social media campaigns aimed at unseating the prime minister over a range of allegations of financial misdeeds.

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