Likud insiders rally behind Netanyahu, ruling out his resignation

Amid ongoing corruption probes, Likud is standing firmly behind the Israeli prime minister.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a Likud Party meeting in the Knesset on Feb. 26, 2018. Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a Likud Party meeting in the Knesset on Feb. 26, 2018. Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

The new revelation that a lawyer involved in a case investigating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the judge were allegedly colluding has temporarily shifted the media narrative of the scandals away from the Israeli premier.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has ordered an investigation into Tel Aviv Magistrates’ Court Judge Ronit Poznanski-Katz and Israel Securities Authority investigator Eran Shaham-Shavit, who are suspected of coordinating by text messages in Case 4000.

The file deals with allegations that the Israeli telecom giant Bezeq, which owns the popular news website Walla, exchanged positive media coverage for the Netanyahu family in return for favorable regulations.

Regarding the clouds hanging over the prime minister and the multiple investigations, Likud MK Sharren Haskel told JNS in an interview that “we are just facing another hot-air balloon, like those of the last two-and-a-half years. Soon, it will shrink.”

Each time a supposed scandal against Netanyahu breaks “the media already is sentencing him and then it comes out that they found nothing,” she said.

“Unfortunately, the police have been leaking a lot of info, creating a lot of damage,” added the Knesset member.

Asked about the stability of the government or if there is a possibility Netanyahu could resign, Haskel dismissed such concerns. “The Likud is backing the prime minister,” she said, and the government is as stable as it was.

All these voices saying otherwise are coming from the media hype and the opposition, asserted Haskel.

Eli Hazan, director of communications and international relations for Israel’s ruling Likud Party, agreed, saying: “Now when we speak about the prime minister within the party, it is clear nothing is going to change, and the majority support him.”

Hazan said there is a minority within Likud that wants to topple Netanyahu for political reasons, but “they are staying quiet because they know if they speak up, they may lose political power.”

“The Likud is supporting him very much, and Netanyahu is not the only one under attack. When he is attacked, it is an attack on all Likudniks,” he added.

Netanyahu has been accused of multiple crimes while he has been prime minister, said Hazan, yet “all of the accusations have ended with nothing, and I am sure there will be nothing this time.”

Asked about the maneuvering of Netanyahu’s political competition within Likud, he explained that there is a natural “political food chain,” and that every MK wants to become a minister and every minister wants to become prime minister.

‘We need to support him’

Gidon Ariel, a Likud Central Committee member who lives in the Jerusalem suburb of Ma’ale Adumim, commented that the media is producing floods of information, and there is speculation that Netanyahu will only come under pressure to resign in a year.

Meanwhile, however, “he is piling up successes like I have never seen.” Ariel affirms that relations with the United States are stronger than ever and the economy is sailing.

“The average run-of-the-mill person on the street is not following the media so much, and even if they are, they feel that the media is shoving a narrative down our throats,” continued Ariel.

He explained that in the last election in 2015, the polls predicted Likud would get four to five fewer seats than they ended up getting.

“Within the rank and file in the Likud, nobody has been mentioning for months anything about somebody taking over the party. Especially now, people are saying we need to support him,” said the Likud Central Committee member.

In addition, he noted that Netanyahu has been getting good poll numbers and rules out any chance that he would resign.

Asked about the stability of the government, Ariel said nobody in the ruling coalition wants to break it up.

“I have lived in Israel for almost 40 years,” he stated, “and I am more optimistic now about the country than at any time I can remember.”

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