Maverick Likud MK Benny Begin on Thursday derided what he described as a growing trend in his party in which members are expected to express personal loyalty to faction leader Benjamin Netanyahu.
“I recently heard that among the Likud values there is a new value called ‘loyalty to the leader.’ I hear this from the Likud leadership. I was not aware of such a value… I think it is a very grave development, and utterly ridiculous nonsense,” Begin, the son of legendary Likud prime minister Menahem Begin, told Army Radio.
Begin made the comments after being asked to explain his absence at Likud rallies on August 9 and on Wednesday evening, which were organized by coalition chairman David Bitan in support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu amid a series of graft investigations and scandals surrounding the prime minister and his family.
At both rallies, Netanyahu made seething attacks against the press, accusing it of playing up a pair of corruption investigations against him in an effort to end his premiership.
“They don’t only despise us,” he said Wednesday. “They despise something much deeper: They despise the choice of the people and they despise the democracy in whose name they protest.
“They are doing everything possible to harm me and my wife because they think that if they topple me and her they will topple us, the Likud, the national camp — and to this end, all means are kosher,” he added.
Netanyahu is being investigated in a pair of corruption cases, known as Case 1000 and Case 2000. Since police indicated several months ago that they were leaning toward recommending an indictment, he has been lashing out at the media with increasing frequency and ferocity.
In Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife Sara are suspected of receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, most notably hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.
Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes that would have seen the prime minister hobble a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.
Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing in all instances.