Senior Netanyahu Coalition Partner Says Will Only Consider Quitting Government if PM Indicted

Naftali Bennett casts his support of the premier in spite of growing corruption allegations, says criminal matters will be decided by law enforcement authorities

Education Minister Naftali Bennett at Habayit HaYehudi meeting in Jerusalem, February 16, 2018
Olivier Fitoussi

Education Minister Naftali Bennett released a statement Thursday in support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying he felt the premier was performing adequately and that Israel has "a good nationalist government" that would continue to lead the state "as usual."

"As I've said before, moral matters are for the voters discretion, and criminal matters will be decided by law enforcement authorities... we are hopeful the Prime Minister is vindicated of all charges, for his sake and for Israel."

Speaking to Army Radio later, Bennett said that he will decide whether or not to quit the government if and when the attorney general indicts the prime minister.

"I will assess the situation according to the performance of the prime minister," he said. "In the meantime [he is performing] very well and I hope there won't be an indictment."

This statement follows Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon's words on Wednesday, saying his party would not quit the governing coalition either, and await for the attorney general’s decision.

We cannot ignore the heavy, unpleasant cloud,” the chairman of the Kulanu party said during a visit to the northern Israeli town of Migdal Ha’emek, referring to police investigations of numerous allegations against Netanyahu. “As cabinet ministers and public figures, we are in an uncomfortable, unpleasant period.”

But until Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit decides on the disposition of the cases, Kahlon said, “we’ll go on introducing reforms and acting in the interest of the public. “Only one person in Israel is authorized by law to issue indictments,” he added.

Last week, after the police announced they had evidence that Netanyahu had received bribes in two cases, the so-called cigars-and-Champagne affair and the Yedioth Ahronoth quid pro-quo affair, Kahlon said he was “aware of the public sentiment, both from the left and the right.”

He added, however, that his action would depend on Mendelblit’s decision.