JERUSALEM (Mar. 2)
Members of the Likud Party rallied in a show of support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose political stature has been shaken by a police investigation of alleged corruption surrounding the appointment of an attorney general.
Members of the Likud Central Committee packed the Tel Aviv Conference Center on Sunday night to cheer Netanyahu and other key party figures who have been questioned in connection with the investigation.
Israeli media reported over the weekend that Netanyahu might be questioned again by police regarding an alleged deal tied to the appointment of Jerusalem lawyer Roni Bar-On as attorney general.
Bar-On won Cabinet approval Jan. 10, but stepped down two days later amid growing charges that he lacked the experience to hold Israel’s top legal post.
The police investigation was launched after an Israel Television report alleged that Bar-On was appointed as part of a deal to provide a plea bargain to one of Netanyahu’s political allies, Shas Knesset member Aryeh Deri, who is on trial for corruption.
In turn, Deri allegedly promised his party’s support for the Hebron agreement, which was coming up for Cabinet approval at the time, the report said.
Netanyahu drew enthusiastic applause from the crowd at Sunday’s rally with his attacks on the Israeli media, which he criticized for its non-stop coverage of the investigation.
Despite the show of solidarity, there were nonetheless rifts within Likud. This became evident when one of Netanyahu’s severest critics appeared at the conference center.
Knesset member Ze’ev “Benny” Begin, who resigned his Cabinet post after the other ministers approved the Hebron agreement in January, was greeted with boos and catcalls when he first arrived.