Netanyahu compares corruption charges against him to omelettes in Instagram outburst, after professing innocence

Israel’s right-wing premier urged followers to help him make bribery jokes online after declaring his innocence in several corruption cases during televised speech 

Bel Trew
Jerusalem
Tuesday 08 January 2019 14:51 GMT
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Benjamin Netanyahu maintains his innocence, saying he is a victim of a political witch-hunt during a live statement at the PM’s office in Jerusalem on Monday
Benjamin Netanyahu maintains his innocence, saying he is a victim of a political witch-hunt during a live statement at the PM’s office in Jerusalem on Monday (AFP/Getty)

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has compared corruption allegations against him to eggless omelettes and relationships within the TV series Friends, in a bizarre stream of social media posts apparently mocking the ongoing probes.

Mr Netanyahu, who is contesting an April election under the shadow of possible indictment, urged his supporters to help him make jokes about bribery shortly after declaring his innocence in a televised address.

Taking to Instagram, the embattled premier, who heads Israel’s right-wing Likud party, posted “bribery without money is like…” and called on people to fill in the blanks, sparking disbelief and fury among many.

In the posts, which were dotted with emojis, he wrote “bribery without money is like an omelette with no egg”, “bribery without money is like Rachel with no Ross” in reference to US TV series Friends, before going on to say “bribery without money is like Tuesday with no couscous”.

He neared the end of the thread with “bribery without money is like Kim with no Kanye” West, the famed American rapper.

It came just hours after he made a special televised announcement, originally billed by his office as due to contain a “dramatic statement”.

In the speech, panned by critics and much of the media in Israel as being anticlimactic, he professed his innocence in three corruption cases against him, claiming he has been subjected to a political witch-hunt.

Mr Netanyahu insisted he be permitted to confront the state’s witnesses against him, saying his requests to do so have been twice turned down.

“What are they afraid of? What do they have to hide? I am not afraid, and I have nothing to hide ... As far as I am concerned it can be broadcast live, so the public can see and hear it,” he said.

He then claimed the country’s attorney-general was facing “non-stop” pressure to indict him.

In response, Israel’s justice ministry released a terse statement saying that the investigations against Mr Netanyahu have been carried out professionally and thoroughly.

Opposition leaders were also quick to respond, and blasted the leader, who is now in his fourth term.

Labour Party chief Avi Gabbay called the speech and Instagram deluge a “horror show” and said in a statement “in a normal country, the prime minister does not attack the law enforcement authorities”.

He added: “Instead of caring about the safety of the south’s residents, the cost of living or the deteriorating health system, Netanyahu is busy saving himself from the investigations.”

‘Bribery without corruption is like Rachel with no Ross’ reads a post on the Israeli PM’s official Instagram account (Benjamin Netanyahu’s office (Instagram))
‘Bribery without corruption is like Rachel with no Ross’ reads a post on the Israeli PM’s official Instagram account (Benjamin Netanyahu’s office (Instagram)) (Benjamin Netanyahu's office (Instagram))

Meanwhile Tzipi Livni, head of the liberal Hatnuah Party, called Netanyahu’s statements “a victim-like, hysterical attack on law enforcement”, according to left-wing daily Haaretz.

Mr Netanyahu is currently facing three graft cases, dubbed 4000, 2000 and 1000. He has repeatedly denied all the charges.

In case 4000, police have alleged that Mr Netanyahu granted regulatory favours to Israel’s leading telecommunications company, Bezeq, in return for more positive coverage on Walla, a news website belonging to the firm’s owner.

Case 2000 focuses on suspicions Mr Netanyahu negotiated a deal with the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper for better coverage in return for promises to limit the circulation of a rival.

In the third investigation, case 1000, police argue that he received expensive gifts from wealthy friends.

The attorney general is expected to decide whether to push ahead with an indictment in these cases within the next few weeks.

‘Bribery without corruption is like an omelette without an egg’ (Benjamin Netanyahu’s office (Instagram))
‘Bribery without corruption is like an omelette without an egg’ (Benjamin Netanyahu’s office (Instagram)) (Benjamin Netanyahu's office (Instagram))

Mr Netanyahu said on Monday doing so before the election on 9 April was a “lack of justice” as he would be unable to answer the claims. His recent decision to call a snap election, seven months early, is seen by many as a direct appeal to voters for a fresh political mandate to bat off the investigations.

While some supporters joined in with the premier’s Instagram jokes on Tuesday, the bizarre outburst also drew widespread criticism with some people tweeting altered photos of Mr Netanyahu wearing prison uniform.

Opposition figures hit back on their own social media platforms. Merav Michaeli, a Labour Party member of parliament, posted a photo of a foot on Instagram saying: “A prime minister under indictment is like a sock with a hole”.

The elections in Israel also come under the spectre of renewed conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank.

Israel and Gaza, which is run by the militant group Hamas, were pushed to the brink of war several times last year amid some of the heaviest exchanges of cross border fire since the last conflict in 2014.

‘Bribery without corruption is like Kim with no Kanye‘ (Benjamin Netanyahu’s office (Instagram))
‘Bribery without corruption is like Kim with no Kanye‘ (Benjamin Netanyahu’s office (Instagram)) (Benjamin Netanyahu's office (Instagram))

But at the close of the year violence also flared in the occupied West Bank, which is run by Hamas’s political rival Fatah, after Hamas operatives launched a series of deadly shooting attacks on Israelis.

Israeli forces said on Tuesday they had arrested Assam Barghouti, the Palestinian man accused of shooting dead two soldiers at a bus stop near the Israeli settlement Givat Assaf in the Ramallah area last month.

He is also accused of being involved with his brother Salah in another shooting nearby, close to the Ofra settlement, that caused the death of a baby and wounded seven.

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