Among the offenses police say Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu should be prosecuted for are the favors he allegedly did for his friend, millionaire Arnon Milchin. It emerged from the recommendations that the star witness in Case 1000, involving the favor-trading with Milchin, is none other than Yair Lapid, head of Yesh Atid and Netanyahu’s chief rival for the prime minister’s seat. Coalition MKs slammed Lapid, saying that if Netanyahu was guilty of something, he was just as guilty – as Milchin was a friend of his, as well.
Speaking Wednesday morning in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu made that same point. “Lapid said that he was questioned about this for an hour, but when I was questioned by police they barely brought the point up,” Netanyahu said to local authority officials at the Tel Aviv Exhibition Grounds. “And I responded that I did not do any favors for Milchin. And this major charge against me is based on one hour of questioning of Lapid, in a year and a half of investigation, and now it turns out that Lapid is a key witness. That says a great deal about the whole investigation. This, of course, is the same Lapid who said he would do whatever it takes to end my political career. This is the same Lapid who is a good friend of Milchin, and worked for him in the past, and who discussed many issues with him when he was finance minister. They investigate me but not others – this is absurd,” he said.
Among other things, Netanyahu is accused of trying to help Milchin by encouraging the passage of a law that allows new immigrants and returning residents to bring assets with them from abroad and avoid reporting on them to Israeli tax authorities for 10 years. This was attributed as a favor by Netanyahu to Milchin, part of the quid pro quo between the two. It emerged that a key witness in this aspect of the case was none other than Lapid, who was Netanyahu’s finance minister in the last government.
In a speech Tuesday night after police released the recommendations, Netanyahu said that the law, which was actually known as the Milchin Law, “was passed in the government of Ehud Olmert. It was handled by the Finance Ministry,” which was run by Lapid in Netanyahu’s previous government, “and was supported by then-State Attorney Yaakov Ne’eman, and many ministers who saw it as a way to increase investments in Israel. The fact that I was asked just a few questions about this by police says a great deal.”
Lapid, said Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, “is responsible for a disgusting attempt at a coup, against the will of the people. Lapid lost twice in the elections, and now he is trying to take over the prime minister’s job with unsubstantiated testimony. The truth will definitely emerge, and Netanyahu will continue to lead the country.”
Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev slammed Lapid as well, saying that “the only thing that was revealed Tuesday night was the true face of Yair Lapid, a failed politician who prefers to join the Rothschild Boulevard protesters and their guillotines threatening the prime minister with death as the way to throw Netanyahu out of office, as opposed to doing so by democratic means. The revelation of Lapid as a star witness is the last nail in his political coffin.”
Speaking in the Knesset Tuesday night, and reflecting comments by other Likud MKs, Coalition chairperson David Amsalem called Lapid a “tattletale” who skipped out on IDF service (Lapid served in the army newspaper Bamachane during his stint). “You get NIS 40,000 a month and are barely ever here in the Knesset, you take the people’s money and travel the world, staying in fancy hotels and making yourself out to be Israel’s foreign minister. Who would even join a government you ran, given the science fiction scenario that you would win an election?”
It wasn’t just Likud members who gave it to Lapid. Deputy Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Jewry) said that “Lapid has been revealed in his full shame to the public, continuing the coup attempt he began in 2014, when he was thrown out of office as a failed finance minister.”
In a statement, Lapid said Tuesday that “police asked me to testify in Case 1000, and like any good citizen I responded. They asked me about attempts to extend the Milchin Law from 10 years of tax exemption to 20 years, a process I completely opposed, despite pressures put on me to do so. In this instance, as in many others, Yesh Atid was the last bastion against corruption, against politicians seeking to serve themselves. Even if the plain, dry law does not require Netanyahu to resign, a leader with such serious accusations hanging in the air against him should, in an advanced country, resign. There is no way to run the county when you are faced with such accusations,” he said.