I was offered to be finance minister in Italy, but I chose to stay in Israel, former Finance Minister and Likud leadership candidate Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday at The Israel Bar convention.
Netanyahu revealed that Carlo de Benedetti, one of Italy's leading industrialists has offered him the post, but that he declined and opted for staying in Israel.
"We are at a critical time, a time of major decisions in the fields of society and economy, and the crucial moment would be when we decide whether to uproot corruption," he said.
Referring to Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz's recent defection to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Kadima party, Netanyahu said that he was shocked when he learned of the move.
"There is no longer any meaning to principles and ideology. You can buy anyone. This is not the lesson on society we want to be teaching our kids," Netanyahu said.
'Kadima will resume withdrawals'
The Likud leader also discussed Kadima's platform, and slammed the party for blurring its political program.
"It’s legitimate to have disagreements over the subject of further withdrawals. What is illegitimate is hiding the standpoint on the matter altogether. This is a danger to our democracy. I cannot accept a situation where someone says one thing and does the exact opposite," he stated.
According to Netanyahu, it is a known fact in the political system that Kadima will carry out "the mother of all disengagements," but the party nevertheless fails to express a clear statement regarding another pullout.
"They wink at the Left and say, 'vote for us, we will withdraw,' while denying it to the Right and saying 'don't worry,'" Netanyahu added.
'A successful operation'
Netanyahu talked about his term as finance minister, and said that he in fact saved Israel's economy when it was on the verge of collapsing.
"When I was offered the position of finance minister I knew I was going to get hurt. We are now facing the smoke screens of populism sweeping over the state. When I took on the post, Israel was a few weeks away from total collapse like in Argentina, and the Central bank's governor warned that the bank was on the verge of a breakdown," Netanyahu said.
"The economy was facing disintegration, as was society. No one was willing to perform this operation, except me," he said.
I said then that the 'surgical procedure' to the economy will bring growth and people laughed, Netanyahu said, claiming that currently growth in Israel is among the highest in the Western World, after being rated last.
"I have drafted a plan that will continue the momentum, to transfer people from depending on stipends to being employed, cut off the security budget and lower the VAT to 14 percent," he concluded.