Likud backers say Netanyahu should not resign if indicted

Likud backers say Netanyahu should not resign if indicted

Only one in five of respondents to straw poll at convention of party supporters think prime minister should step down if criminal charges brought against him

Likud supporters taking part in a straw poll at an event for party faithful in Eilat on January 10, 2018. (Flash90)
Likud supporters taking part in a straw poll at an event for party faithful in Eilat on January 10, 2018. (Flash90)

Most Likud supporters think Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should be able to continue in his position even if criminal charges are filed against him, according to a straw poll conducted at an annual event for party faithful.

Asked about a situation in which “heaven forbid the charges are brought,” 69.4 percent of respondents said they believe Netanyahu should continue to serve as prime minister even under criminal indictment, according to press reports.

The survey was taken at the so-called Leumiada, an annual gathering of Likud supporters in Eilat that is seen as a bellwether of the ruling party’s political positions.

Just over 20% of respondents said Netanyahu should have to resign, and the remaining 9.5% said they had no opinion.

Police have recommended Netanyahu be charged with bribery in three separate cases currently being reviewed by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, reads a document as he arrives to the weekly cabinet meeting, in Jerusalem, January 6, 2019. (Gali Tibbon/Pool via AP)

Mandelblit is expected to announce whether he will indict Netanyahu, pending a hearing, next month, though he will likely not be able to hold the hearing and file actual charges until after April 9 elections.

Netanyahu has dismissed the suspicions as a witch-hunt and vowed not to step down if Mandelblit announces a decision to indict pending a hearing.

It remains an open question if Netanyahu can legally continue to serve if he is indicted, though a number of Netanyahu’s political allies have said he should have to resign if charges are brought against him. Polls currently show Likud garnering the most seats in the national election, positioning it to form the next government.

While Mandelblit has largely been spared from direct criticism by Netanyahu and his backers, they have claimed that the attorney general is being pressured by the media and members of the legal establishment to announce his intention to indict the prime minister pending a hearing before elections.

Culture Minister Miri Regev speaks at the annual ‘Likudiada’ event in the southern Israeli city of Eilat on January 10, 2018. (Flash90)

At the convention on Friday, a number of lawmakers accused judicial authorities of trying to subvert democracy by pursuing the charges before elections.

“[Mandelblit] should say we’ll start and finish [a hearing] before the elections or finish everything afterwards, because otherwise it is in fact an intervention by the attorney general in an election,” Culture Minister Miri Regev said.

No New Right union

The event, previously called the “Likudiada,” had its name changed this year to avoid being fined for contravening election campaign laws.

The poll at the event also found over 44% of Likud backers against a union with the New Right political party recently spun off of Jewish Home.

Just over 23% of respondents backed a union, while 17.3% thought that New Right No. 2 Ayelet Shaked should be the only one given a spot on the Likud Knesset list, while only 1.9% thought the same of party leader Naftali Bennett. 7.7% had no opinion.

Likud supporters taking part in a straw poll at an event for party faithful in Eilat on January 10, 2018. (Flash90)

Asked to rate government ministers, respondents gave the highest marks to Regev, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz, Development Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin and Science Minister Ofir Akunis, along with Absorption Minister Yaov Gallant, who recently jumped from the Kulanu party to Likud, and Economy Minister Eli Cohen, who has remained in Kulanu.

Left off the list were Communications Minister Ayoub Kara and Welfare Minister Haim Katz, who is also facing a possible indictment.

Unlike in past years, the convention did not release the rankings of the ministers to avoid infighting, the Haaretz daily reported.

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