Yair Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid party, said on Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the coalition whip and the ministers who had ranted at Lapid’s cooperation with the police as they investigated Netanyahu were talking like criminals.
News that Lapid had testified against Netanyahu, which emerged from the police recommendations to indict him on corruption charges, sparked outrage among the prime minister’s supporters, who accused Lapid of attempting a coup. From the Knesset podium, coalition whip David Amsalem described Lapid as a “lousy snitch.”
In response, Lapid said: “I heard the prime minister and his gang, including the coalition whip and ministers, dared suggest that one has the option not to tell the truth when the police ask you to help ascertain the facts in a grave corruption case. That’s how criminals talk, not public servants.”
Lapid said that “like any law-abiding citizen who is asked by the police to help them get to the truth, I went and answered all their questions.”
According to the police, the Yesh Atid chief is also expected to serve as a key witness as the case undergoes further investigation by state prosecutors.
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Following the police recommendations, Lapid called on Netanyahu to resign. “The prime minister must show national responsibility. You can’t be prime minister, foreign minister and health minister while spending most of your time with lawyers and issuing comments to the media,” he said.
“You can’t represent us in the world when every foreign leader you meet knows you’re charged with grave offenses,” Lapid added.
Yesh Atid lawmaker and Lapid’s confidant Ofer Shelah told Israel Radio on Wednesday morning that Amsalem had attacked Lapid “with low criminal language, intended to cover low criminal behavior.” He accused Tourism Minister Yariv Levin and other Likud lawmakers of backing up the prime minister’s “criminal behavior.”
According to the police statement, Netanyahu allegedly pushed to enact a tax amendment that would have given businessman Arnon Milchan a tax break of millions of shekels.
Netanyahu retorted that Milchan was a good friend of Lapid’s, and that Lapid had been the one to handle the businessman’s affairs when he had served as finance minister regardless of the friendship between them.
Lapid responded that he had refused to advance the so-called Milchan bill despite the pressure, “because I work for Israel’s citizens, only for them, not for any tycoon or politician’s interests, no matter how senior.”
A Likud spokesman said in response: “Lapid should stop whining and try to divert attention from the simple question: How, as finance minister, did he have work meetings with his close friend and former employer Arnon Milchan and why hasn’t he been questioned under caution over this?”
“I’m trying to think what would have happened if I had done something like that,” Netanyahu said. “I would have been questioned under caution seven times. But here the world is topsy-turvy. I get police recommendations and Lapid gets applause.”
Meanwhile, Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev called Lapid a “failed politician” who had joined forces with those determined to overthrow the prime minister.