Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hit back on Sunday after police recommended indictments against him and his wife for bribery and other corruption charges, calling it a “witch hunt” and saying the investigation was “tainted from the start.”
Netanyahu was speaking at a Likud event marking the first night of Hanukkah. The event was opened by coalition head MK David Amsalem, who turned to the prime minister, saying:
“Thousands of people came here to support you. We met this morning and you asked me why I’m sad. I think most people are sad today because of what’s happening, it’s unreasonable. We’re in a democratic state, and governments are changed at the ballot box, not by the police.”
After Amsalem, Netanyahu spoke, saying: “We are here to celebrate the victory of light over darkness. Listen to me, in the end, the light always prevails. ... Hanukkah might be a holiday of miracles, but I have to ask you: How did they know to publish these absurd recommendations against Sara and me exactly on the police commissioner’s last day? What can I tell you, a real Hanukkah miracle. “But what did you expect?” he continued.
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“Even before the first investigation started, they already determined and leaked that these would be the recommendations, so what’s new? You can’t expect a different result after the deluge of leaks from the investigations and a daily brainwashing in the media.”
Netanyahu has dismissed various corruption allegations as attempts by the media and his enemies to destroy him politically.
Netanyahu sharply assailed the police and its outgoing commissioner, Roni Alsheich. “The heads of the system insolently claimed that I’d sent investigators and that Sara had sent someone to complain about the chief investigator for sexual harassment,” he said, referring to the Roni Ritman case involving the head of the police anti-fraud unit.
“Those same officers continued investigating me and Sara even though they were in a direct conflict of interest. How can you conduct an unbiased investigation like that?” He continued, “I don’t know who the next police commissioner will be, but I know one thing – he’ll have a lot of rehabilitation to do, since the public’s trust in the police is not at its peak.”
Netanyahu referred to the evidentiary basis underlying cases 2000 and 4000, according to each of which he received or intended to receive a bribe in the form of favorable media coverage. “I don’t think it’s healthy that the police in a democracy investigate relations between politicians and journalists. But if you do, then do it thoroughly. Tens of ministers and Knesset members were not investigated, including key witness [Yesh Atid leader] Yair Lapid, who secretly met [Yedioth publisher] Arnon Mozes dozens of times.
Everyone acted in order to pass a law which would shut down the daily Israel Hayom, a law which without my stiff opposition would have passed, giving Mozes millions. Many of those Knesset members enjoyed favorable coverage in Yedioth Ahronoth and on Ynet, its online affiliate. Not only favorable, it was pampering coverage. No one touches them, and me, who buried that law, I’m the one investigated? It’s absurd. If it’s not Bibi there’s no investigation.”
Netanyahu added: “Israel is a state where the rule of law applies, in which police recommendations have no legal validity. Only recently, a host of recommendations against mayors were rejected. They ended in nothing. And here too you know how it will end – ‘There will be nothing – ” and the crowd chanted, “Because there is nothing.”
In closing, Netanyahu made it clear he does not intend to resign. “Hanukkah is a festival of courage and persistence. We persist, I persist, the investigations have not deflected me and the recommendations won’t deflect me either from the really important matters.”
Earlier, sounds of an anti-Netanyahu demonstration could be heard outside.