On November 21st, Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be indicted in four separate criminal charges set out in three cases.
The charges follow three probes into Netanyahu’s relationships with wealthy friends and regulatory favours he allegedly promised to media barons to secure favourable coverage for him and his wife.
A spokesman for Avichai Mandelblit, attorney-general, said Netanyahu would be charged with one count of bribery and three counts of fraud and breach of trust.
“A day in which the attorney-general decides to indict a sitting prime minister for serious crimes of corrupt governance is a heavy and sad day for Israel,” said Mandelblit. “But while I did this with a heavy heart, I did it with a whole heart.”
“In the prime minister’s affairs I found there was evidence pointing to grave actions allegedly being committed, which carry a reasonable likelihood of conviction,” Mandelblit said. “For this reason it is my duty by law to indict. It is not a choice. It is an obligation. Thus it is in the case of any citizen, and thus I acted here.
“Law enforcement isn’t optional. It’s not a question of politics. It’s a duty incumbent upon us…. We were not swayed by slander from all sides, and acted only to enforce the law,” he said.
He called the accusations and “many lies” made about the prosecution “dangerous” and said propagators of such claims were “playing with fire. It must stop. I call on everyone, and first and foremost the leaders of the state, you must distance yourself from discourse that threatens law enforcement officials. We’re not infallible or above criticism. But we acted without fear or prejudice, for the rule of law.”
Netanyahu attacked the attorney-general for “custom tailoring” a suit to trap him and demanded that “the investigators be investigated”.
“The tainted investigation didn’t pursue the truth, it pursued me,” he said in a televised address. “It’s a case of selective enforcement on steroids.”
In the televised address, Netanyahu further said:
“We are witnesses to an attempted coup against the prime minister with false accusations, and a tainted and skewed investigation. What I am going through is not easy — I am also a human being. My blood, and my wife’s blood and my son’s blood is being spilled.”
As it has become fashionable in some other countries throughout the word, where the term is being used accordingly, he said that this was a “coup” against him, despite him failing to form a government just a month earlier. He still vowed to continue leading the country.
After all, he is the sitting Prime Minister, but only because there is no government formed, so he is a caretaker.
And it is obvious that Netanyahu’s political path has likely come to an end, if even Atlantic Council fellows appear to be doomsayers:
“This has been a long time coming and people stake their ground out long in advance so I don’t think we’re going to see a mass defection in the Likud” party that Netanyahu leads, said Shalom Lipner, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council who has served seven Israeli prime ministers. “But it clearly does move him further away from retaining power.”
Regardless, Attorney General Mandelblit is expected to formally inform Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein about his decision to indict the prime minister in the coming days.
From that moment on, Netanyahu has 30 days to decide whether he wants to ask the Knesset for parliamentary immunity.
The situation is complicated since, Netanyahu’s main rival – Benny Gantz failed to form a government and returned the mandate to Presiden Reuven Rivlin.
Now, in the following 21 days every member of parliament can propose a Prime Minister, but it is unlikely that anybody would get the 61 out of 120 votes needed to form a unity government.
In that situation, as per Israeli law, Netanyahu can remain as serving prime minister indefinitely.
Which would most definitely establish as concrete truth the status of Israel as the Middle East’s “only democracy.”
He can remain in his post until the possible 3rd round of elections or if he’s convicted, but if he receives Parliamentary immunity, he can even sit through that.
He could also be required to relinquish the four ministerial posts he holds, in addition to the Prime Minister seat. Netanyahu holds the agriculture, health, social affairs and diaspora affairs posts in the “only democracy” in the Middle East.
According to legal precedent, a minister cannot continue to serve under indictment. That doesn’t apply to the Prime Minister seat.
Likely, to preserve the situation and the stalemate until a favourable outcome is possible for him, recent escalations in Gaza and/or Syria will most definitely be taken advantage of.
If Netanyahu and his Likud party would like to remain in power a “security accident” would be needed to draw the wider public’s attention away from his indictment charges. In this way, the chances of a new regional conflict are growing, simply because Benjamin Netanyahu refuses to relinquish power and potentially take responsibility for his actions, thus essentially becoming a tyrant in “the only democracy” in the Middle East.
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