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Ya’alon warns: If Netanyahu isn’t indicted for graft, I’ll tell all

Former defense minister says he has ‘no doubt’ PM is guilty of corruption, and doesn’t plan on staying quiet

Raoul Wootliff is the Times of Israel's former political correspondent and producer of the Daily Briefing podcast.

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkott, then defense minister Moshe Ya'alon, President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a welcoming ceremony for the new submarine 'Rahav' at the Israeli navy base in Haifa, on January 12, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkott, then defense minister Moshe Ya'alon, President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a welcoming ceremony for the new submarine 'Rahav' at the Israeli navy base in Haifa, on January 12, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon has threatened to “tell all” on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s alleged corruption if the prime minister is not indicted as part of three graft probes involving him or his associates.

“I knew about previous prime ministers that were corrupt for their own benefit, but it’s a completely different thing when a prime minister jeopardizes the interests of the country for his gain,” Ya’alon said during an interview broadcast on Channel 2 Tuesday night.

Ya’alon, who was ousted as defense minister last year, was known to have disagreed with Netanyahu over the so-called “submarine affair,” in which the prime minister’s personal lawyer David Shimron is suspected of attempting to sway multi-billion-shekel deals in favor of the German shipbuilder ThyssenKryupp which he represented in Israel. The purchase was opposed by parts of the defense establishment, including Ya’alon.

Following testimony by Ya’alon in January, police opened a full criminal investigation into the affair, now known as “Case 3000,” but stressed that the prime minister was not a suspect.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and his personal lawyer David Shimron, left. (Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and his personal lawyer David Shimron, left. (Flash90)

Netanyahu is, however, a criminal suspect in two other ongoing formal police investigations.

In “Case 1000,” police are investigating allegations that a number of businessmen gave lucrative gifts to Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, over his years in office. Police are also investigating another case, known as “Case 2000,” in which Netanyahu is believed to have offered the publisher of Israel’s biggest-selling daily Yedioth Ahronoth his help in reducing the readership of Yedioth’s pro-Netanyahu rival paper Israel Hayom in exchange for more favorable coverage. Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing.

Asked Tuesday if he thought the prime minister and Shimron were guilty of corruption, Ya’alon said he had “absolutely no doubt, no doubt whatsoever and if he is not indicted, I will go on a speaking tour to tell all. I will reveal everything.”

Writing on Twitter later, Ya’alon clarified that he had already told the police everything he knew but would “publicly reveal” the information if charges are not pressed.

Responding to the interview, sources close to the prime minister denied Ya’alon’s threat as “utter garbage and completely empty.”

In a statement given to Channel 2 news, the sources hit back with their own threats, promising that Ya’alon’s “brazen lies will soon be exposed as such.” Noting that the Justice Ministry has confirmed Netanyahu is not a suspect in “Case 3000,” the statement added that the former defense minister “would be well advised to find another way for him to [try to] pass the electoral threshold.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) with then defense minister Moshe Ya'alon during a joint press conference at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem regarding the recent wave of terror in Israel, October 8, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) with then defense minister Moshe Ya’alon during a joint press conference at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem regarding the recent wave of terror in Israel, October 8, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Since resigning from the Knesset in May 2016 after he was replaced as defense minister by Avigdor Liberman, Ya’alon has become a fierce critic of Netanyahu and has vowed to form a new party to challenge the prime minister and the ruling Likud party in the next parliamentary elections.

But according to a poll last month, Ya’alon’s anticipated party would fail to garner enough votes to pass the 3.25 percent electoral threshold and would therefore not enter the Knesset. Likud on the other hand would win a resounding 28 seats (albeit down from its current 30), four clear of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid at 24.

Last month Ya’alon said Netanyahu “should have resigned a while ago” as a result of the ongoing criminal investigations against him.

Ya’alon has also said Netanyahu’s refusal to step down despite being a suspect in two criminal investigations was a result of the problematic political culture in Israel. “This is a matter of political culture. Obviously there is no smoke without fire,” he said. “In the political culture of Britain or the US, when an issue arises and an investigation is opened, people resign.”

Under Israeli law, a prime minister does not need to step down if indicted and can continue to serve as premier for the duration of a trial.

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