'In my opinion, he himself will get up and go'

Kahlon says he would leave coalition if PM indicted

In interview, finance minister — whose Kulanu party is critical to government’s majority — says Netanyahu would have to go if he was on trial for corruption

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon at a press conference at the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem, January 8, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon at a press conference at the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem, January 8, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said Thursday his party would not stay in a government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu if the premier was indicted by the attorney general.

Just days after a last-minute resolution to a coalition crisis that threatened to bring early elections, Kahlon, in an interview with Hadashot News, gave a new possible ending scenario for the current government.

“If a trial begins against the prime minister, he will not be able to continue,” Kahlon said.

When pressed on whether his party would leave the government if Netanyahu was indicted, Kahlon stressed, “If the attorney general would announce that he has decided to file an indictment against the prime minister, the prime minister will not be able to continue serving as prime minister. That was my answer three months ago and it is my answer today to you in the studio.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon attend a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, on January 11, 2018. (Alex Kolomoisky/Pool)

However, Kahlon said that he expected Netanyahu would step down by himself if indicted, or that he would be forced out by other members of the coalition.

“If a trial begins against the prime minister, he can not serve. And do you know what? He doesn’t need me for that. In my opinion, he himself will get up and go or the other parties [will force him out],” Kahlon said.

The full interview is to be broadcast on Hadashot on Friday.

Should Kahlon’s Kulanu party, which has 10 Knesset seats, pull out of the coalition, the government would lose its majority and bring the country to early elections.

The prime minister is a suspect in three police investigations.

One investigation, known as Case 4000, involves suspicions Netanyahu advanced regulations benefiting Bezeq owner Shaul Elovitch in exchange for positive coverage at Bezeq’s Walla news site. Officials have said that the suspicions against the prime minister are more serious in this case than in two earlier cases, 1000 and 2000, in which police have recommended he be indicted for fraud, breach of trust, and bribery.

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 has not been named as a suspect in another investigation, but there have been reports that police are considering questioning him under caution about the case.

Case 3000 involves suspected corruption in the multi-billion-shekel purchase of submarines and other naval vessels and from a German shipbuilder. The investigation has focused on suspicions that state officials were bribed to influence a decision to purchase four patrol boats and three Dolphin-class submarines costing a total of 2 billion euros from ThyssenKrupp, despite opposition to the deal from the Defense Ministry.

A number of close associates of Netanyahu’s, including his two personal lawyers, former chief of staff, and former media adviser have been arrested or questioned in the cases.

Netanyahu has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in all of the cases.

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