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Reports of Netanyahu’s political death are exaggerated

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What does the indictment of Benjamin Netanyahu really mean, in terms of the future – the coming years, the coming 3rd elections within a year? Is it possible that Netanyahu will still hold the reins of the Likud, and perhaps be elected Prime Minister for a fifth term?

The short answer is, yes, it is. It is possible.

Murmurings of mutiny in the Likud

Immediately following Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s announcement to indict the Prime Minister, Gideon Sa’ar, the number 5 on the Likud list, in Netanyahu’s party, called for primaries within the party ahead of the expected elections:

The right and necessary thing to do is to set up a timetable for Likud leadership primaries. That’s what the Likud constitution says…I think I will be able to form a government and unite the country and the nation.

This is not the first time that Sa’ar challenged Netanyahu in recent times. Early last month, when Netanyahu was suggesting primaries in order to secure his absolute standing in the party, Sa’ar immediately tweeted “I’m ready”, causing Netanyahu to close down the proposal immediately.

Notice in Sa’ar’s recent statements, the centrality of the “unity” idea. He is hinting at a unity government with Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue-White party. Gantz has said that he would not serve with an indicted Netanyahu, and the prospect of a unity government of the two main center-right parties, probably with Avigdor Lieberman of Israel Beitenu (who has insisted on such an outcome), appears to be the only way out of the political stalemate that has thrown Israel into an unprecedented forever-election cycle.

Israeli Channels 12 and 13 have been reporting about other murmurings of mutiny in the Likud, repeated by Times of Israel yesterday:

Several senior Likud lawmakers have reportedly been meeting behind the scenes in a bid to try and oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following the attorney general’s explosive Thursday announcement that he will indict the Israeli leader in three corruption cases. According to a Channel 12 TV report on Friday, which did not cite sources, the senior Likud officials are convinced “the Netanyahu era is over” and are working to try dethrone him as head of the party within the current 21-day period allotted for the Knesset to agree on a prime minister before Israel would be forced to go to new elections. Channel 13 reported similar backroom talks, with one unnamed person saying: “We are trying to figure out how to wrest the party from his hands.”

But these are murmurings, whispers in the hallways. Besides the more outspoken Sa’ar, the official statements are mostly party line, Netanyahu loyalty statements. Following are but a few examples.

  • Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz, number 3 in Likud:

“Israel is a state of law and the presumption of innocence is the right of every person, certainly of Prime Minister Netanyahu… So long as there is no legal objection to Netanyahu serving as prime minister he is permitted to remain in his job, and only the public and its representatives in the Knesset will decide democratically who will lead Israel.”

  • Culture Minister Miri Regev, number 6 on the Likud list, turned the tables in defense of Netanyahu and said police and state prosecutors “cannot be immune from criticism and above the law”.
  • Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, number 8 on the Likud list:

“We are being tested… The state of Israel owes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a great debt. Netanyahu has devoted his life to this country and to its defense. The injustice done to him tonight cries out to high heaven… (calling on fellow Likud members to) come together… We will keep our ranks united and continue as one to fight for our principles and our truth, and we will win.”

  • Science Minister Ofir Akunis, number 14:

“From my 25-year acquaintance with him, which has known its ups and downs, I give my support to the prime minister and appreciate even more so his contribution over many years to Israel.”

  • Justice Minister Amir Ohana, number 20:

“Benjamin Netanyahu is not a corrupt man… I’m proud to stand by him at this moment… and completely confident that the test of history will prove it’s the correct side to stand on.”

  • Communications Minister David Amsalem, number 18:

“We won’t let the lie win!”

Notice that a couple of these comments support the Netanyahu claim that this is all just fake news and a personal witch-hunt against him.

So there is a strong body of loyalism supporting Netanyahu, and it is quite clear that the Likud is betting on better success for the right-wing in a coming election, no doubt through extension and further amplification of the message that a vote for Gantz is a vote for Arabs.

Now, can Netanyahu just go on? In principle there is no prohibition on a Prime Minister serving while facing indictment. What happens now is supposed to be a process in which the Prime Minister, within a month, appeals to the House Committee, arguing why immunity should apply. That committee then can bring the appeal to a parliamentary plenum voting. Under normal circumstances this can take some months. Furthermore, currently no such committee exists. The last one was dismantled, as Israel is running a transition-government. Even if the Knesset decides to create it for this purpose, the process could still drag on for months, and any vote would no doubt be contested and appealed in the High Court. The High Court process could take anywhere between 6 months and 2 years. Even if the High Court backs the charges and the matter goes to court, the whole process can easily end up taking years. In the meanwhile, theoretically at least, Netanyahu could claim innocence until proven guilty.

So we are at a very early stage in the criminal proceedings regarding Netanyahu. Those who have been cheering this as the end of the Netanyahu era are being premature. If one has learned anything about Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving Prime Minister, it is that he is an unsurpassed master at political survival. Every time he gets into an unprecedented situation where people think “this time, he couldn’t possibly make his way out of this”, he does it. ‘Netanyahoudini’, if you like. So don’t say ‘never again Netanyahu’. It ain’t over yet.

H/t Masih Sadat

Jonathan Ofir

Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.

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2 Responses

  1. Kay24 on November 23, 2019, 2:29 pm

    Crooked Bibi is desperate to cling to power, the question is whether voters over there still want him as their PM. There is an eerie similarity with the Trump situation, with Bibi’s base still supporting him, and you have to wonder if Trump and Bibi are both advised by the same political advisor, as they both seem to use the same words like “witch hunt” and “investigate the investigators”, the projections are very noticeable.

    “Fifty-six percent of Israelis think that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should resign, according to a survey published Friday after Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced that he would be indicting the premier in three corruption cases.

    Just 35% of respondents said that the Likud leader should not budge from the Prime Minister’s Residence, while the remaining 9% were unsure, according to the Channel 13 poll.”
    Times of Israel.

    Trump and Bibi seem to have the same percentage of supporters too.

    • Misterioso on November 24, 2019, 10:51 am

      For the record.
      A brief look at Bibi, the boastful shyster:

      Videos: July 17, 2010

      Bibi:…”The Arabs are currently focusing on a war of terror and they think it will break us. The main thing, first of all, is to hit them. Not just one blow, but blows that are so painful that the price will be too heavy to be borne. The price is not too heavy to be borne, now. A broad attack on the Palestinian Authority. To bring them to the point of being afraid that everything is collapsing…”

      “Woman: Wait a moment, but then the world will say ‘how come you’re conquering again?’

      Netanyahu: “The world won’t say a thing. The world will say we’re defending.”

      Woman: “Aren’t you afraid of the world, Bibi?”
      Netanyahu: “Especially today, with America. I know what America is. America is something that can easily be moved. Moved to the right direction.”

      Child: “They say they’re for us, but, it’s like…”
      Netanyahu: “They won’t get in our way. They won’t get in our way.”
      Child: “On the other hand, if we do some something, then they…”

      Netanyahu: “So let’s say they say something. So they said it! They said it! 80% of the Americans support us. It’s absurd. We have that kind of support and we say ‘what will we do with the…’ Look. That administration [Clinton] was extremely pro-Palestinian. I wasn’t afraid to maneuver there. I was not afraid to clash with Clinton. I was not afraid to clash with the United Nations. I was paying the price anyway, I preferred to receive the value. Value for the price.”

      In the following segment, Bibi boasts about how he emptied the Oslo Accords of meaning by an interpretation that made a mockery of them:

      Woman: “The Oslo Accords are a disaster.”
      Netanyahu: “Yes. You know that and I knew that…The people [nation] has to know…”

      “What were the Oslo Accords? The Oslo Accords, which the Knesset signed, I was asked, before the elections: ‘Will you act according to them?’ and I answered: ‘yes, subject to mutuality and limiting the retreats.’ “But how do you intend to limit the retreats?” “I’ll give such interpretation to the Accords that will make it possible for me to stop this galloping to the ’67 [armistice] lines. How did we do it?”

      Narrator: “The Oslo Accords stated at the time that Israel would gradually hand over territories to the Palestinians in three different pulses, unless the territories in question had settlements or military sites. This is where Netanyahu found a loophole.”

      Netanyahu: “No one said what defined military sites. Defined military sites, I said, were security zones. As far as I’m concerned, the Jordan Valley is a defined military site.”

      Woman: “Right [laughs]… The Beit She’an Valley.”

      Netanyahu: “How can you tell. How can you tell? But then the question came up of just who would define what Defined Military Sites were. I received a letter — to me and to Arafat, at the same time — which said that Israel, and only Israel, would be the one to define what those are, the location of those military sites and their size. Now, they did not want to give me that letter, so I did not give the Hebron Agreement. I stopped the government meeting, I said: ‘I’m not signing.’ Only when the letter came, in the course of the meeting, to me and to Arafat, only then did I sign the Hebron Agreement. Or rather, ratify it, it had already been signed. Why does this matter? Because at that moment I actually stopped the Oslo Accord.”

      Woman: “And despite that, one of our own people, excuse me, who knew it was a swindle, and that we were going to commit suicide with the Oslo Accord, gives them — for example — Hebron…”

      Netanyahu: “Indeed, Hebron hurts. It hurts. It’s the thing that hurts. One of the famous rabbis, whom I very much respect, a rabbi of Eretz Yisrael, he said to me: ‘What would your father say?’ I went to my father. Do you know a little about my father’s position?”

      “He’s not exactly a lily-white dove, as they say. So my father heard the question and said: ‘Tell the rabbi that your grandfather, Rabbi Natan Milikowski, was a smart Jew. Tell him it would be better to give two percent than to give a hundred percent. And that’s the choice here. You gave two percent and in that way you stopped the withdrawal. Instead of a hundred percent.’ The trick is not to be there and be broken. The trick is to be there and pay a minimal price.”

      “At a point in the middle of the video Netanayhu asks the camera man to stop taping, but he continues…

      “Netanyahu says what he really thinks for the first time:
      “He brags about how easy is to manipulate the USA and he proudly explains how he sabotaged the Oslo process.”

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