Netanyahu Asks Likud Lawmakers to Defend Him: Political Enemies Are Trying to Topple Me

The prime minister shortens his Europe trip to fight the developing scandals at home

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the opening ceremony of the Maccabiah Games in Jerusalem, July 6, 2017.
Nir Keidar

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has shortened his planned trip to Paris and Budapest, seemingly to give himself more time to deal with scandals developing in Israel. The Prime Minister’s Bureau said Thursday that he will postpone his departure from Friday afternoon to late Saturday night.

The announcement of Netanyahu’s schedule change came only a few hours after he convened a group of close Likud ministers and lawmakers for political consultations related to the investigations against him and his closest colleagues in the so-called submarine scandal and the Bezeq affair, and the accompanying political fallout.

At the meeting, Netanyahu asked the ministers and lawmakers to help defend him in the media in connection to the Bezeq and submarine affairs.

Netanyahu’s political aide Shai Haik distributed a page with quotes from the State Comptroller’s report on Bezeq and its relations with the Communications Ministry to all those attending the meeting. The emphasis was on the position of the Justice Ministry, which stated that as communications minister, Netanyahu did not provide any favors to Bezeq – making his actions were completely above board.

Two of those who participated in the meeting said Netanyahu was in an aggressive mood and said: “Our political enemies have joined with the media to try to topple the Likud and me. They won’t let me enjoy the [presumption of] innocence. They are trying to bring about an indictment of me even though there is nothing there,” he said.

Netanyahu asked his ministers to give interviews to the press and fight back against the attacks on him. Netanyahu’s chief of staff, Yoav Horowitz, provided those present with an overview of the submarine affair, and equipped them with messages for their interviews with the press, scheduled for Thursday evening.

Among those who attended the meeting were Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, Communications Minister Ayoub Kara, Science, Technology and Space Minister Ofir Akunis, and lawmakers David Bitan, Anat Berko, Yoav Kish and Amir Ohana. Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin were invited, but could not attend because of scheduling conflicts.

“We are going on the attack, we are tired of all the unforgiveable slander of the prime minister," said lawmaker Miki Zohar after the meeting. "We have clear figures that show Netanyahu had no connection to these affairs. The time has come to stop accusing him of everything that happens in the country.”