JERUSALEM, Israel - As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans for another likely bitter campaign, he assured Israelis he would abide by any court decision regarding his indictment on corruption charges, while also continuing to criticize his investigators.
"We will always act in the end, at the beginning, according to the rule of law and that means that whoever didn't act in accordance with the law, in the police or the state prosecutor, it needs to be looked into, dealt with and corrected,” Netanyahu said.
Blue and White Party chairman Benny Gantz, his main opponent, demanded Netanyahu retire to fight his legal battles and appealed to the prime minister's own Likud Party.
"This is the only way to prevent unnecessary elections which only one person wants, contrary to the will of the people, contrary to the needs of the people. Leaders of the Likud, it's time to make your voice heard,” said Gantz.
Gideon Sa'ar, a rival of Netanyahu's within the Likud Party, did just that by demanding new elections within Likud. As leader of the party, Netanyahu agreed on Sunday to hold new elections within Likud in the next six weeks to determine who will lead the party next and attempt to form a coalition government.
While the politicians maneuver, the court of public opinion remains divided.
"The charges against him are pretty severe and his response to the charges show(s) that he is incapable of functioning in a rational way, or carrying out any serious decision making or any activities that's relevant for the future of the country,” said Jerusalem resident Ariel Chipman.
Avraham Nakash, who also lives in Jerusalem, said he does not believe the charges against Netanyahu.
"I will be happy to know that this is fiction and not true and for Bibi (Benjamin Netanyahu) will continue his term, because Bibi in my eyes is one of the best statesman and politician in the world,” said Nakash.
Israel now faces an unprecedented legal situation.
"Other legal systems do not accept this scenario, and (it) remains to be seen whether in Israel we will really face this very exceptional, unusual scenario of a person who is at the same time the prime minister of Israel and an accused person in very serious charges,” said Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer, Vice President of the Israel Democracy Institute.
For Netanyahu the next seventeen days are crucial. For the first time in its history, Israel’s Knesset has the power to choose a government and it is possible members of rival parties could defect to form a government and choose a new prime minister.