Netanyahu would lose if elections were held today, Barak says

Netanyahu would lose if elections were held today, Barak says

Former Israeli leader predicts the 'chapter called Benjamin Netanyahu is over' amid PM's rising legal troubles

Former prime minister Ehud Barak speaks at a conference for the Darkenu organization in Rishon Lezion on August 17, 2016. (Neri Lider)
Former prime minister Ehud Barak speaks at a conference for the Darkenu organization in Rishon Lezion on August 17, 2016. (Neri Lider)

Former prime minister Ehud Barak on Saturday predicted that the days of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government were numbered, and that the current Israeli leader would be unseated in the next elections.

“The chapter called Benjamin Netanyahu is over,” Barak said during a cultural event in Hadera, according to the Walla news site. “If [Netanyahu] were to call elections now, the public would not elect him, and he would receive a humiliating and embarrassing defeat.”

Over the past year, Barak has become an outspoken critic of Netanyahu, broadcasting diatribes against the prime minister and his governing coalition on Twitter, radio, and television.

Late last year, Barak unleashed an unprecedentedly harsh condemnation of Netanyahu’s policies, arguing that the current government was endangering the entire Zionist project as it inches closer to an annexation of the West Bank, “precluding any permanent separation from the Palestinians.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the-then defense minister Ehud Barak attend a press conference at the PM’s office in Jerusalem, November 21, 2012. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

In a fiery New York Times op-ed, Barak, who some believe is mulling a re-entry into politics, also accused the Netanyahu-led government of showing a general disrespect for the rule of law, and claimed that it had “declared war” on the courts, the media, civil society and the ethical code of the IDF.

Netanyahu has increasingly faced opposition calls to resign as investigations into his conduct have intensified. Last week, police recommended that Netanyahu be indicted for fraud, breach of trust, and bribery in two cases.

In Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife are alleged to have received illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, most notably the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, totaling NIS 1 million ($282,000). In return, Netanyahu is alleged by police to have intervened on Milchan’s behalf in matters relating to legislation, business dealings, and visa arrangements.

Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth 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.

The prime minister has this week been linked to an additional affair, dubbed Case 1270, which involves his former family spokesman Nir Hefetz allegedly offering in 2015 to have judge Hila Gerstel appointed attorney general if she agreed to halt an investigation focused on the prime minister’s wife, Sara.

Netanyahu, who has not been named as a suspect in the case, has strongly denied involvement in the incident and said he thought it highly unlikely that Hefetz had advanced any such idea.

At the same time, a flurry of developments were reported in Case 4000 this week, following the arrest of a number of figures involved in the investigation. The case involves suspicions that Bezeq and Walla news owner Shaul Elovitch ordered Walla journalists to grant positive coverage to the Netanyahu family in exchange for the prime minister’s advancement of regulations benefiting the telecommunications giant.

Netanyahu was acting communications minister at the time when several allegedly illicit deals were made with Elovitch, one of which included helping Bezeq buy the satellite cable provider Yes, overriding antitrust issues raised by ministry officials.

On Tuesday, Shlomo Filber, former director-general of the Communications Ministry and longtime Netanyahu confidant, signed a deal to turn state’s witness and possibly incriminate Netanyahu in the affair.

Hadashot TV news reported on Friday that Netanyahu would likely be questioned next week in Case 4000, along with another case involving alleged graft in multi-billion-shekel naval deals called Case 3000.

In that case, police are investigating suspected corruption surrounding a multi-billion-shekel purchase of naval vessels and submarines from a German shipbuilder. While Netanyahu has not been named as a suspect, close associates of his, including his two personal lawyers, have been arrested or questioned.

On Saturday, Zionist Union Chairman Avi Gabbay, the leader of the opposition, said that should Netanyahu be questioned this week “he will have to resign.”

Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing in all the cases.

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