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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Katz, left, and Netanyahu. (Credit: AFP)

(TPS) Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu went on the offensive on Tuesday, verbally attacking a senior cabinet member, assumed to be Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, for “undermining him” and allegedly planning to replace him should he be forced to resign amidst multiple corruption scandals.

“He can continue to make plans for replacing me all he wants,” Netanyahu said. “We’ve heard about a ‘senior Likud minister.’ Let him go on making plans. You all know who it is. Can we say his name out loud yet? Where’s the shame in saying his name?!”

“I don’t see there is any problem here,” Netanyahu said. “We are talking about bribery and breach of trust with respect to Case 2000.” Case 2000 refers to the accusation that he colluded with the publisher of Yedioth Ahronoth to promote legislation to close the Yisrael Hayom newspaper, a pro-Netanyahu competitor to Yedioth, in exchange for favorable coverage.

Netanyahu spoke to party members ahead of a rally, to be held Wednesday, called to bring support for the prime minister in the face of the ongoing police investigations. Earlier this week, Coalition Chairman and Whip David Bitan warned Likud ministers and MKs that they must attend the rally, after warning last week that ministers who don’t support Netanyahu “would get hurt” politically.

Netanyahu also dispatched Bitan to defend him in a feature interview with the Hebrew-language Ynet news site. In a studio interview Tuesday, Bitan defended making the threat, saying that the Likud ministers have Netanyahu to thank for their jobs, and appearing satisfied that his threats had worked.

Bitan went on to attack the media for a “witch hunt” against Netanyahu stretching back to his first stint as prime minister. But he also offered a change from Netanyahu’s original claim that the investigations “won’t reveal anything because there is nothing to reveal.”

Now, Bitan said, “Obviously, something happened if the police are investigating. And Bibi admitted [to] accepting cigars. But the important part here is the second half of the sentence: It won’t lead to anything.”