The recommendation by the police and the Israel Securities Authority that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, be charged with bribery in the Bezeq-Walla case, also known as Case 4000, joins existing recommendations to indict Netanyahu in Case 1000, the lavish-gifts case, and Case 2000, the Yedioth Ahronoth quid-pro-quo affair. In light of these three recommendations to indict him for bribery, it is inconceivable that he remain in office.
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni, Zionist Union chairman Avi Gabbay, Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid and Meretz chairwoman Tamar Zandberg all urged Netanyahu to resign. They are right. Netanyahu must resign immediately and new elections should be held.
By law, Netanyahu isn’t obligated to resign, and judging by his reaction, he intends to remain in office and fight to clear his name. Every citizen has the right to be presumed innocent, and this shouldn’t be taken lightly. But Netanyahu’s insistence on being presumed innocent even as police recommendations have piled up against him in several different cases goes beyond the bounds of the reasonable.
Netanyahu himself, when he was opposition leader and Ehud Olmert was prime minister, declared, “A prime minister up to his neck in investigations has no public or moral mandate to make fateful decisions for Israel.” That’s a perfect description of his own situation.
The crimes with which the police recommend charging Netanyahu and his wife are extremely serious. According to the police, the main suspicion is that the prime minister “intervened and was actively involved in regulatory decisions that benefited Shaul Elovitch and his Bezeq corporation, and at the same time demanded, directly and indirectly, to intervene in the content of the Walla news site in ways that would benefit him.”
The attempt by members of Netanyahu’s Likud party to minimize the gravity of the police recommendations is a badge of shame for Likud. There’s a limit to how many times it’s possible to play the “putsch” and “conspiracy” cards.
Following their leader’s example, Netanyahu’s acolytes have once again volunteered to smear the law enforcement system and the outgoing police commissioner, Roni Alsheich. Their automatic defense of the serial suspect currently heading the government is evidence in itself of the damage Netanyahu’s continued tenure under these circumstances is doing to the rule of law, the country and Israeli society.
When garden-variety criminals deny the charges against them and lash out at the police and the legal system, it’s understandable. But such behavior is completely unacceptable from the prime minister, who is attacking agencies of the very government he heads. The aggressive, inflammatory, slanderous responses by Netanyahu and those close to him prove that when it comes down to a choice between his own welfare and that of the country, he prefers his own.
The only decent and responsible thing for Netanyahu to do is resign immediately. Since he has no intention of doing so, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit must speed up his legal review and make a decision on the numerous cases against the prime minister.