A newspaper report Tuesday spotlighted the hesitation felt by senior Likud party MKs at the prospect of challenging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership, despite increasingly unfavorable polls and ongoing corruption investigations against him.
One Knesset member told Yedioth Ahronoth on condition of anonymity that there were five senior party figures, including himself, who were prepared to challenge Netanyahu. But the conditions for such an attempt would have to be very specific, he said: All five would have to convene a press conference and call on Netanyahu to step down. They would tell reporters that once the prime minister had departed, one of them would take his spot at the helm of the party.
However, the anonymous lawmaker said, such a move could only work if all five of them remained united. He said Netanyahu would remove any individual challenger, as he had done in the past to two party figures. It was not clear to whom he was referring.
Netanyahu is a suspect in two corruption investigations, known as cases 1000 and 2000.
In the first, 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 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 denied wrongdoing in both cases.
The prime minister is not a suspect in a third investigation, known as Case 3000, into suspected corruption in the purchase of naval vessels from a German shipbuilder, but several of his closest confidants are.
Netanyahu’s coalition chief David Bitan is suspected of receiving bribes and money laundering in a separate investigation.
An opinion poll for Hadashot news on Monday showed a Likud-led coalition just maintaining its majority were elections to be held today.