Senior Likud Minister Dismisses Talk of Netanyahu's Ouster Amid Investigation

Minister says ruling party not preparing for ‘the day after’ Netanyahu, as opposition lock horns over response to prime minister scandal.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan
Emil Salman

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan called Sunday the revelations about the meetings between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes “unpleasant and even embarrassing,” but stressed that Likud was not preparing for the possibility of the premier having to resign his post.

New details emerged Sunday into alleged negotiations between Netanyahu and the media mogul Arnon Mozes, according to which the prime minister helped set up meeting between the publisher and leading businessmen, include James Packer, already named as part of investigations into Netanyahu, and others who are suspected of giving him potentially illegal gifts.

“I’m working alongside the prime minister and have been at his side for more than 20 years,” Erdan told Israel Radio. “Certainly these reports are unpleasant, and are even embarrassing, but I still hope with all my heart that these cases will end exactly as the prime minister says – with nothing.”

When asked if Likud was preparing for a post-Netanyahu era, Erdan dismissed the idea. “I am not aware of any dealing in the Likud with ‘the day after’ and I don’t plan to address media reports as if they represent reality,” he said. “Any comment I make about speculations or future scenarios could influence the investigation and be misinterpreted.”

Meretz chairman Zehava Galon wrote on her Facebook page yesterday, “The gatekeepers have become Netanyahu’s gatekeepers. Netanyahu must go, and he must take the attorney general [Avichai Mendelblit] with him.”

Galon added, “The attorney general sat for months on tapes which proved that the prime minister is a main player in the Israeli media market, and not only was the prime minister not immediately dropped into an interrogation room, Mendelblit is also letting him continue as communications minister?”

When MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid) was asked by Army Radio about what his party’s chairman, Yair Lapid, thought about the case, he said Lapid is being cautious in his responses, not least because he was a columnist for Yedioth Ahronoth for many years.

“This caution, in particular because he was identified with Yedioth Ahronoth for so many years, is totally reasonable,” Shelah said.

According to Channel 2, Netanyahu helped set up meetings between Mozes and the Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, the Australian billionaire James Packer and even Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. He also helped Mozes reach out to the German media concern Axel Springer. All contacts were made as part of an attempt to help Mozes' Yedioth Aharnoth daily deal with financial issues by bringing in investors. Axel Springer denied that the negotiations ever occured, adding that it never considering purchasing Yedioth.