Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told a former senior official he would be willing to leave political life if there were a worthy successor, amid a series of corruption scandals and persistent rumors of early elections.
Netanyahu made the comment to an unnamed senior law enforcement official, saying he would leave political life “tomorrow,” according to a Channel 10 news report Sunday.
“I am willing to leave my job as prime minister tomorrow, only I don’t have anyone to whom to entrust the keys,” the prime minister was quoted by the channel as telling an unnamed senior official.
Netanyahu’s Likud party denied the claim and urged people not to trust the report.
Netanyahu, the longest-serving Israeli leader after David Ben Gurion, has been at the heart of several police investigations. He has denied wrongdoing and firmly rejected suggestions he would leave his position as a result of the probes.
The prime minister recently lashed out at the former Likud minister believed to be one of his only realistic successors within the ruling party. Netanyahu had accused Gideon Sa’ar of attempting a “putsch” against him to replace him after the next election by convincing the president to task him, rather than Netanyahu, with forming the next government. Sa’ar has demanded Netanyahu provide proof of the alleged political heist or retract his statements.
Investigators have been looking into suspected wrongdoing by the prime minister in three separate probes, known as Cases 1000, 2000, and 4000, which involve suspicions Netanyahu accepted gifts and favors in exchange for advancing businessmen’s interests.
Police in February recommended Netanyahu be indicted in cases 1000 and 2000.
In Case 1000, Netanyahu is suspected of receiving benefits worth about NIS 1 million ($282,000) from billionaire benefactors in exchange for favors. 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 is also suspected of advancing regulatory decisions as communications minister and prime minister that benefited Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder in Bezeq, the country’s largest telecommunications firm, in an investigation known as Case 4000. Police suspect that in exchange, he received positive coverage from Elovitch’s Walla news site, in what they say may have constituted bribery.
The prime minister has been questioned 12 times by investigators in the cases.
Police last week also recommended the indictment of several of Netanyahu’s associates in the so-called submarines probe. The investigation, which is known as Case 3000, is considered to be one of the greatest corruption schemes in the country’s history and centers on the $2 billion purchase of submarines from a German shipbuilder. Netanyahu is not a suspect.