Israeli Tourism Minister Resigns in Protest Against Netanyahu

“Asaf Zamir, of the centrist Blue and White party, says he does not have an ‘ounce of trust’ in the Israeli PM.”

Israel’s tourism minister has resigned from the fractious government, saying he does not have an “ounce of trust” in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accusing him of putting his personal and legal issues ahead of the response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Asaf Zamir is a member of the centrist Blue and White party, which battled Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud in three stalemated elections in under a year before forming an emergency government with it in May to combat the pandemic. Israel went into a second nationwide lockdown last month and is now grappling with one of the worst outbreaks in the world on a per capita basis. The emergency government has been roiled by infighting and has faced widespread criticism over its confusing and often contradictory response to the pandemic.

“I can no longer sit in a government in which I don’t have an ounce of trust in the person at its head,” Zamir tweeted.

“I have unfortunately determined that the coronavirus crisis and its terrible impact is at best in second place in the list of priorities of the prime minister. Personal and legal considerations are at the top of Netanyahu’s priorities.”

Netanyahu has been the target of weekly demonstrations outside his official residence for months, with protesters calling on him to resign over his trial on multiple corruption allegations and his response to the pandemic.

The prime minister has been charged with fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in a series of cases. He is accused of accepting expensive gifts, such as cartons of champagne and cigars, from wealthy friends and offering favours to media moguls in exchange for favourable news coverage of him and his family.

In the most serious case, he is accused of promoting legislation that delivered hundreds of millions of dollars of profits to the owner of a major telecommunications company while wielding behind-the-scenes editorial influence over the firm’s popular news website.

Netanyahu, who heads the Likud party, denies all charges. He has cast his prosecution as a left-wing witch-hunt meant to overthrow a popular right-wing leader.

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