Netanyahu Cannot Remain Prime Minister if Indicted, Key Israeli Coalition Partner Says

Finance Minister Kahlon says Netanyahu will have to resign if an indictment for corruption is filed, but ‘I think he will get up and go’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talks with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon in the Knesset last month
Emil salman

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cannot remain in his post if he is indicted, a key partner in his ruling coalition said Thursday. Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said his Kulanu party would not remain in a Netanyahu government if the prime minister is put on trial.

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“There is one man, and one law,” Kahlon told Israel National News. “The law says the attorney general decides whether to file an indictment.” The legal process will proceed and if Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit announces an indictment against Netanyahu, then he “can no longer continue to serve as a prime minister,” added Kahlon.

As for the claims coming from Netanyahu's Likud party, where Kahlon was once a promising member, that Netanyahu is innocent until proved otherwise and can continue to serve even while he is being tried in court, Kahlon said: “The Likud can say what they want. If a trial against the prime minister begins, he cannot serve, he does not need me [to say] that. In my opinion, he will get up and go, or the other parties [will leave].”

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Haaretz reported this week that Kahlon and the head of another key coalition partner, the right-wing Habayit Hayehudi party headed by Education Minister Naftali Bennett, have made it clear they will not bring down the government if Mendelblit makes decides in principle to file an indictment against Netanyahu, but will wait until the hearing process for Netanyahu is completed and an indictment is actually filed, a process that could take a few months.

The investigations against Netanyahu – which was supposed to end soon - is now expected to be further delayed as a result of the agreement signed with Netanyahu’s former spokesman Nir Hefetz to turn state’s evidence, which will require further police questioning of Netanyahu.

Last month, after the wave of arrests in the telecom affair, known as Case 4000, Kahlon said about the investigations that they were “not a secret and it was impossible to ignore the heavy and unpleasant cloud [of suspicions around the prime minister]. As cabinet ministers and public figures, we are in an uncomfortable, unpleasant period.”   

But until Mendelblit decides on the disposition of the cases, Kahlon said, “we’ll go on introducing reforms and acting in for the public's interests."

This is not the first time Kahlon has responded to such questions. After the police announced they had evidence that Netanyahu had received bribes in two cases, the so-called lavish gifts affair and the media quid pro-quo affair, Kahlon said he was “aware of the public sentiment, both from the left and the right,” but his actions would depend on Mendelblit’s decision.