Although Binyamin Netanyahu says he has no intention of stepping down, and his coalition remains intact for the time being, Zionist Camp chairperson Avi Gabay has called on party members to be prepared for elections. In a letter to party activists and Knesset members, Gabay said that “the events of the past two days and recent hours make it clear that the era of Netanyahu is over. We need to be ready for the upcoming elections.”
Netanyahu, he said, had “built a criminal house of cards that corrupted national service, harmed the rule of law, threatened freedom of the press, and worst of all, divided Israeli society. It is all tumbling down around him. The prime minister, whose top advisers are turning state’s evidence, needs to resign immediately. I believe that other members of the coalition will realize this in the coming days,” Gabay said in the letter.
Gabay was referring chiefly to Jewish Home head Naftali Bennett, and Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon, both of whom have said their parties will remain in the coalition for now. Kahlon reiterated that Wednesday, after it was announced that former Communications Ministry Director General Shlomo Filber had signed an agreement with the state to testify against Netanyahu. “For now I am not changing my mind, and will remain in the coalition,” he told Kulanu MKs at a meeting Wednesday. Bennett said earlier in the week that his party, as well, was sticking with Netanyahu.
“It will take a long time to repair Israeli society from the damage done to it,” Gabay said. “But we will do it. For that to happen, we must concentrate on one mission – winning the next election, and bringing to Israel a leadership that is straight, value-oriented, acts with transparency, is true to its ideas, and is not the slave of a rich tycoon. This is our responsibility to the public,” he added.
The prime minister himself has said on several occasions that he is not going anywhere. Speaking to Cabinet members Wednesday, Netanyahu said, “As you can see, it’s business as usual here. We are continuing to work for the benefit of the state.”
So far, the only crack in support for Netanyahu from within the coalition came from Likud MK Oren Hazan, who on Tuesday told Yediot Acharonot that it might be better for the prime minister to step aside temporarily, until the air around him clears. “I said a year ago that if he is indicted, the prime minister must recuse himself from public service and from leading the Likud, which is the party the people selected to lead the country. The party would appoint someone else to lead it. I think that now would be the time for the prime minister to step aside and allow us to deal with the situation.”
The Likud, he said, “is liable to pay a very heavy price for all these corruption scandals. The party needs to spit out those who are found by a court – I am not talking about speculation here – of wrongdoing and repair itself. The Likud is my home and I am very worried about it. I will not allow anyone to damage it,” he added.