ISRAELI Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to relinquish the four ministerial positions he currently holds in the face of his indictment on charges of corruption, bribery and breach of trust – but will remain premier.
‘He will cease being a minister by January 1st, 2020 and appoint other ministers instead,’ Netanyahu’s legal team said in a submission to the court last Thursday.
However, ‘The prime minister will continue to be prime minister, as per the law,’ attorneys Avi Halevy and Michael Rabello said.
As from last Wednesday Netanyahu will not be the minister of agriculture, health, social affairs and diaspora affairs.
The announcement to the court came the same morning as parliament dissolved itself and set a date for a new election – the third in a year.
It has been set for March 2nd 2020
Earlier, the Israeli Supreme Court had received a petition from an Israeli NGO demanding that Netanyahu step down from all his positions in light of his indictments.
The MQG said Netanyahu’s intention to resign as minister was not enough, describing his continued premiership as ‘a terrible shame’ on Israel.
‘Netanyahu should fight for his innocence as a private person and not from the prime minister’s office’, the NGO said in a statement.
On November 22, the political alliance Blue and White called on Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to order Netanyahu to immediately give up the four ministerial posts.
Mandelblit had announced his decision regarding Netanyahu’s indictment a day earlier.
‘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.’
Political rivals and hundreds of protesters are ramping up pressure on the weakened Netanyahu to resign after being indicted on a series of corruption charges.
Soon after the top prosecutor’s press conference in Jerusalem Netanyahu railed against the indictment in a televised speech. He claimed it was filled with ‘false accusations’ and called it a ‘tainted investigation’.
He also described it as an ‘attempted coup’ against him.
In response, Benny Gantz, the leader of Blue and White and Netanyahu’s main challenger in the two elections this year, wrote in a post published on Twitter, saying: ‘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 jewellery, cigars, champagne and other gifts from wealthy businessmen for political favours in one case.
With the prospect of a third election in Israel in less than a year, it will be well into 2020 before a new budget is passed, plunging the occupied territories into a budget crisis.
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 favourable stories about him.
Israeli lawmakers have less than a month to organise 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 in twelve months if Knesset (the Israeli parliament) members fail to garner 61 seats in the 120-seat legislature.
- Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement has blasted Bahrain for hosting a senior Israeli rabbi at a so-called religious forum, saying such a move is in line with Manama’s ‘conspiratorial’ bid to normalise relations with the Tel Aviv regime.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Hezbollah said that by hosting such events, the Al Khalifah regime actually disregards the Lebanese and Palestinian martyrs who have lost their lives in Israeli attacks over the past years.
Bahrain, it added, is turning into an American-Israeli platform meant to pave the way for the duo to ‘gain access to the heart of the Arabic and Islamic nation.’
The resistance group also denounced ‘the conspiratorial and betrayal role that the Al Khalifah regime plays to normalise with the enemy, its reception of Israeli figures and its marketing of the idea of coexistence with these killers.’
Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar paid a rare visit to Bahrain earlier this month at the invitation of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah.
He attended a conference featuring religious leaders from Lebanon, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt, Russia, the United States, Italy, India and Thailand.
Addressing the event, Amar expressed hope that the Israelis and Bahrainis would be able to visit each other’s countries without special coordination.
He also met with the Bahraini king and gave him what he called ‘a blessing from Jerusalem that will lead to a solid relationship’ with Tel Aviv.
The visit was organised by American officials acting as intermediaries, Israel’s Kan news agency reported.
The Manama regime, which conducts ‘the worst forms of repression against the oppressed Bahraini people’ and ‘deprives them of their slightest human rights,’ is trying ‘to cover up its lost legitimacy’ by leaning towards Israel and the US.
Earlier this week, Bahrain’s main opposition group, the al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, denounced the Israeli rabbi’s invitation to the forum as proof of Al Khalifah’s hostility towards the Bahraini nation.
Israel has full diplomatic ties with only two Arab states, Egypt and Jordan, but latest reports suggest Tel Aviv has been working behind the scenes to establish formal contacts with countries such as Bahrain.
Back in July, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz met his Bahraini counterpart, Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifah, for a ‘brief chat’ about Iran in Washington and the two posed for a rare photograph.
- US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order that will make Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act apply to anti-Semitic acts, amid concerns that it will be used to silence those who oppose Israel’s apartheid policy toward the Palestinians.
The executive order, announced at the White House on Wednesday afternoon, empowers the US education department to penalise college campuses by withholding federal funds from those which allow criticism of Israel.
The measure targets the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that has initiated ‘various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law.’
The BDS movement is gaining momentum in the United States and poses a serious threat to Israel’s hegemonic power in Washington, according to Myles Hoenig, a political activist based in Maryland.
The presidential order bans discrimination based on race, colour or national origin in programmes and activities, such as colleges and universities, where the BDS movement has been very successful.
Title VI will extend the ban to discrimination based on anti-Semitism. A draft copy of the executive order was published on Wednesday by Jewish Insider.
‘Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities,’ states the draft order suggesting that those charged with enforcing Title VI consider the definition of anti-Semitism to be that adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.
Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, who is an ardent supporter of Israel, said in an opinion piece in the New York Times that the action would ‘support and defend Jewish students in the United States.’
Palestinian and progressive groups condemned the executive order as a blatant attempt to quash criticism of human rights abuses committed by the Israeli regime.
Dima Khalidi, who is the director of Palestine Legal, described the order as a ‘bald-faced attempt to silence the movement for Palestinian rights on college campuses.
‘Defining anti-Semitism to include criticism of Israel serves only to violate the free speech of students and professors who stand for equality and justice for all people,’ he added.
Despite Trump’s unwavering support for Israel, certain Jewish groups in the US accused him of promoting anti-Semitism during a speech last weekend while trying to appeal to Jewish voters.
In his address to the Israeli American Council in Hollywood, Florida, Trump said Israel ‘has never had a better friend in the White House’ than himself, and he listed his acts since taking office, which he thought demonstrated that friendship.
Trump sought to convince the Jewish audience that they had ‘no choice’ but to vote for him or else lose money to Democratic presidential contenders’ wealth tax plans.
Jewish groups said Trump invoked Jewish voters’ wealth while using broad stereotypes to describe their character.
BDS calls for boycotting US projects in Palestine.