Netanyahu warns of 'subversive plot' to unseat him
JERUSALEM - Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has accused the Jewish state’s president and a former minister of conspiring to have him toppled, triggering charges of “paranoia” ahead of elections.
“I know that a former Likud minister has been holding discussions with the coalition and concocted a subversive plot, with me winning a large victory at the next elections and him making sure I am not prime minister,” he told a gathering of his right-wing Likud party on Wednesday night celebrating his 69th birthday.
Under the scheme, President Reuven Rivlin would use his prerogative as head of state to name an alternative Likud candidate to head a post-election government.
Although Netanyahu did not explicitly name him, Gideon Saar, a former minister and leading rival within Likud, on Thursday publicly denied any such manoeuvre, while Rivlin mocked it as “paranoia” on the premier’s part.
Israel’s next legislative elections are scheduled for November 2019 but early polls could be held in case of a crisis within Netanyahu’s ruling Likud-led coalition.
“If Netanyahu decided against moving up the elections it’s not because President Rivlin or former Likud minister Saar is out to get him, but rather to avoid coinciding with an indictment that might lose him the elections,” Haaretz newspaper commented.
Netanyahu, who maintains his innocence in several corruption cases, is not obliged to step down as prime minister even if he is formally charged.
Earlier this month, Netanyahu underwent a new round of questioning over one of several graft cases that he is a suspect in.
The prime minister has been repeatedly questioned over allegations involving Israeli telecoms giant Bezeq and its largest shareholder, Shaul Elovitch.
Netanyahu is accused of seeking favourable coverage from another Elovitch company, the Walla news site, in exchange for policies that could have benefited the mogul’s interests to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.
He also faces interrogation as a witness in a case involving the purchase of three German submarines.
Netanyahu's wife, Sara Netanyahu, also faces allegations of corruption. She began court proceedings this month in a trial over alleged fraud and breach of trust, drawing renewed attention to the many scandals plaguing the prime minister and his family.
Sara Netanyahu has been charged with allegedly overspending roughly $100,000 on celebrity chefs at the prime minister’s official residence, even when there was a full-time chef on staff.
The prime minister has slammed the indictment, calling the allegations against his wife “baseless and delusional.” The family has vehemently denied wrongdoing and claim they are the victims of a political witch hunt driven by a hostile media.
(Arab Weekly staff and news agencies)