MK David Bitan has resigned as chairman of the coalition. He will remain on as a Knesset member. Bitan is resigning in the wake of an investigation into a charges that he assisted an Israeli crime syndicate to advance its business interests in Rishon LeTzion. Bitan is being investigated on suspicion of having received assistance from members of a crime family in order to cover personal debts he owed to mobsters.
MK David Amsalem was named to replace Bitan as coalition whip.
Police claim to have an airtight case, based on secret recordings they made in cooperation with a suspect that turned the state’s evidence. According to police, they have Bitan on tape discussing bribes he received from the state’s witness to help the businessman receive permits to build a home. Bitan is also accused of helping the crime family obtain a valuable contract for infrastructure preparation work on a large Rishon LeTzion project.
In a statement Wednesday, Bitan said that “it is difficult for me to carry out my job under the circumstances, and I do not wish to harm the activities of the coalition. I appreciate the trust the Prime Minister has had in me, and the support he has given me along the way. I will continue to work as a Knesset member and do all I can to faithfully represent the public.”
Earlier, Yediot Acharonot reported that police were close to signing a deal with a state witness who would testify against Bitan in the case. In return for signing the deal, the witness, who is a criminal suspect in the case, will be subject to lesser charges, with a maximum jail term of a year.