Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political opponents and hundreds of demonstrators have moved to capitalize on the indictment on charges relating to corruption, bribery and breach of trust against him, hoping to strip the weakened 70-year-old leader of power.
On Saturday night, Benny Gantz, the leader of center-left Blue and White political alliance and Netanyahu’s main challenger in the two elections this year, called on the Israeli premier to step down, but still offered to form a coalition administration with his Likud political party if there are any chances.
“In light of the circumstances, I call to form a unity administration that is as broad as possible under my leadership,” Gantz said at a press conference in Tel Aviv.
He added, “I will be prime minister for the first two years while Netanyahu can work on his legal issues. If he is acquitted, he can come back and be prime minister.”
Gantz stressed that Netanyahu must “respect what most of the nation wants and resign from his role and fight to prove his innocence.”
“Israeli citizens will not be the hostages of any leader,” he asserted.
Israeli demonstrators call on Netanyahu to resign
Earlier in the day, hundreds of demonstrators had staged a rally in the same city of occupied territories to call on Netanyahu to leave office.
Protesters chanted “Bibi go home,” and waved signs reading: “Netanyahu, let go already,” “Netanyahu, you should quit,” and “The corrupt should go home.”
“The victory is yet to come. What you see here is absurd. We have a man who is charged with three major crimes. And he still believes he wants to be [a] prime minister. I mean this is crazy,” a protester said.
“Bibi [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] should have resigned yesterday. All he wants to do is war, internal and external. He is not a leader. He is the head of the mafia,” another demonstrator said.
'PM, Likud doing everything to harm investigation'
A high-ranking Israeli police official said Netanyahu and Likud party officials have resorted to attacks against justice authorities, and are doing all they can in order to harm the police and weaken its capabilities.
“The prime minister and Likud ministers are doing all they can in order to harm the police and undermine its experience and professional capabilities to conduct investigations free of background noise with the sincere intention of eradicating the phenomenon of public corruption that permeated to the very top of the regime,” the unnamed official said in an interview with Maariv Online on Saturday evening.
Over half of Israelis think Netanyahu must resign
Separately, an opinion poll revealed that more than half of people in the occupied lands believe that Netanyahu must quit after being indicted on a series of corruption charges.
According to the survey conducted by Channel 13 and published on Friday evening, 56% said the charges leveled against Netanyahu were too much for him to continue as the Israeli leader, while 35% said he needed not step down and the remaining 9% of the respondents said they didn’t know.
The survey added that Blue and White would be the largest party with 36 seats – only two more than its result in the previous election – in case new polls are held in Israel. The Likud would receive 33 seats, one more seat than its previous outcome; whilst Yisrael Beytenu would get eight seats, which is no change from the September vote.
The blocs would also remain more or less the same: the leftist bloc would get 57 seats, and the Right would have 55.
The survey was done among 749 participants, of whom 601 were from the Jewish sector and 148 were from the non-Jewish sector.
On Thursday, Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced his decision regarding the indictment of Netanyahu.
“This is not a matter of politics,” Mandelblit said. “This is an obligation placed on us, the people of law enforcement, and upon me personally as the one at its head.”
Soon after the top prosecutor’s press conference in Jerusalem al-Quds, Netanyahu railed against the indictment in a televised speech. He said the indictment was filled with “false accusations” and called it a “tainted investigation.”
He also described it as an “attempted coup” against him.
Gantz wrote in a post published on Twitter in response, “There is no coup in Israel, just a bid (by Netanyahu) to hang onto power.”
Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, are suspected of wrongfully accepting $264,000 worth of jewelry, cigars, champagne and other gifts from wealthy businessmen for political favors in one case.
The Israeli prime minister is also accused of interfering with regulatory bodies and lawmakers on behalf of the biggest selling newspaper in the occupied territories, Yedioth Ahronoth, in exchange for positive news coverage and favorable stories about him.
Israeli lawmakers have less than a month to organize a coalition and select a lawmaker to lead a majority administration. There are strong indications that the legislators will not succeed.
Israel will have to hold elections for the third time this year in case Knesset members fail to garner 61 seats in the 120-seat legislature.
Source: Press TV