Former Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar on Thursday rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's allegations that he conspired to oust him from office.
Sa'ar's response follows Netanyahu's statements that the former Likud lawmaker sought to conspire with President Reuven Rivlin to compel him to step down from the premiership after a presumed Likud victory. Netanyahu's allegations follow a report published in the Israel Hayom daily on Monday that Rivlin would choose another Likud MK to form the coalition government, in light of the corruption probes against Netanyahu.
The prime minister decided to hold off on early elections due to concern over Rivlin’s decision, the report added.
"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has falsely accused me of a made-up crime," Sa'ar told Israel's Army Radio, adding that "what happened here is a serious matter, it crosses a red line… a highly publicized drumhead court martial, void of proof and void of facts."
"Netanyahu has many enemies, and I am absolutely not one of them." Sa'ar said that Netanyahu "is surrounded by conspiracy theorists that do not have the best interest of the state and Likud in mind. I regret that he chose to publicize it in this manner, it's not in the best interest of Likud, it hurts the movement, injecting poison into its veins."
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He called on Netanyahu to present proof or to renege on his previous statements: "Mr. prime minister – no more. The first thing I can promise you: a year and a half ago, I made it known that I would be returning to activity in the public sphere and nothing will stop me from moving forward and fighting for the values and principles that I believe in."
"This is all lies and tall tales, baseless, unfounded illusions; but it shows calculated decision making. There is an element of timing. Maybe I threaten those who would oppose the path of Likud."
Sources close to Netanyahu responded to Sa'ar's interview saying that "Gideon Sa'ar's historic reactions against and cursing of the prime minister only confirm what the facts already show: Gideon Sa'ar is a subversive who is trying to oust Prime Minister Netanyahu against the will of the Likud voters. His lust for power has caused him to be careless in the past weeks as he spoke to ministers and lawmakers and revealed his schemes to overthrow Netanyahu after the prime minister leads Likud to victory in the elections."
Netanyahu, speaking at his 69th birthday party on Wednesday, said: " For the past few weeks I know that a former Likud minister has been speaking with figures in the coalition and cooking up a subversive trick – that I bring Likud to a sweeping victory in the elections and afterward they’ll see to it that I won’t be prime minister, contrary to the will of Likud’s voters, contrary to the public will, contrary to democracy."
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Sa’ar immediately denied the reports on Twitter on Wednesday. “I usually don’t relate to bizarre claims such as these, and especially when there isn't anyone who is willing to stand up and take responsibility for the accusations,” Sa’ar tweeted.
“But since my name was mixed in, I state clearly: There is no truth to the reports. They are completely baseless. I am disturbed by the thought that someone is whispering such foolishness in the prime minister’s ear.” Sa’ar also tweeted that he was “longing for even a shred of evidence to support this ridiculous conspiracy theory.”
On Wednesday, the president’s bureau also denied the report. “We read the report in depth and had a hard time finding any credible information, save for a detailed description of paranoia which does not lean on any tangible event, or even a tangible thought, that happened in reality. As is known, the handling of such phenomena should be left to professionals, who are not spokesmen.”