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World & Nation

Israel’s Netanyahu reacts to likely corruption charges with fire and fury

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presides weekly cabinet meeting, Jerusalem, - - 03 Mar 2019
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on March 3, 2019.
(Ronen Zvulun / EPA/Shutterstock)

On Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s first full day of work since Israel’s attorney general announced Thursday that he intends to indict him in three criminal cases, pending a hearing, Netanyahu made one thing perfectly clear: Voters getting ready for the April 9 national election should prepare for a wild ride.

In less than 24 hours of seemingly nonstop social messaging, the prime minister posted a rhyming, Dr. Seuss-like cartoon taunting individual journalists who had a prominent role reporting the corruption crimes of which he is accused; launched a broadside against Channel 12, a commercial television channel he accuses of belonging to a powerful conspiracy bent on ousting him; and engaged in a series of vituperative attacks on election rival Benny Gantz, a former army chief of staff, and Yair Lapid, a former finance minister. The pair were accused in posts, of among other things, being soft on Iran.

Then, in a meeting with Likud Party leaders, including ministers and legislators possibly rattled by the planned indictments, an unchastened Netanyahu claimed, without proof, that Gantz once attended a ceremony honoring “a thousand” militants of the Islamist militia Hamas killed by Israel.

He also hinted that Gantz, who for the first time led in polls published after the attorney general’s announcement, has been concealing sexual misdeeds.

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The statement, released by the Likud Party spokesman, said that at the morning briefing the prime minister said that “the media will do everything to make the left win. They waited for the attorney general. That mountain has given birth to a mouse, and this mouse will soon escape.”

“The media tries to hide all sorts of things about Gantz,” he teased his crowd, including Culture Minister Miri Regev, whose staff was found last week to have propagated an unsubstantiated claim of sexual impropriety against Gantz.

“No, it’s not what you think…. They’re hiding the fact that a year after the Gaza war, Gantz participated in a memorial service for a thousand Hamas terrorists killed during the conflict. Look what the media hides on Gantz! That’s the left.”

The Likud did not clarify the memorial Netanyahu may have been referring to.

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Gantz and Lapid did not immediately respond to the attacks. Two of the journalists targeted in the animation jokingly thanked the prime minister for advancing their careers.

Netanyahu on Sunday also posted a clip on his social media channels from one of the favorite TV shows of his American ally, President Trump.

“Watch what they say about this persecution of me on one of the most popular programs in the United States,” he wrote in Hebrew, posting a clip of “Fox & Friends” host Pete Hegseth — who is almost entirely unknown to Israelis — railing against Israel’s “Deep State” and the “trumped-up” charges against Netanyahu.

“The people love him,” Hegseth said. “They appreciate what he’s done for the state of Israel and as a result he will fight this and he will not step down. He’s been a great friend of the United States of America.”

In posting the clip, Netanyahu reminded Israelis that he is well-known and respected in some quarters overseas. The posting may also have served as an indirect nod to Trump, who expressed support for a “strong” Netanyahu hours before the planned indictments were made public.

Tarnopolsky is a special correspondent.


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