By Dow Marmur
Jerusalem (Feb. 21, 2018) – Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu isn’t the only person of power to surround himself/herself with advisers who pretend to agree with all his/her prejudices. Instead of wise counsel they offer applause. As a result, his entourage seems to consist of people not worthy of high office. That’s now becoming clear as one after the other is being arrested and, to save his skin, may turn state’s evidence.
The fact that one of Mr. Netanyahu’s chief advisers seems to be Mrs. Netanyahu further complicates matters. She’s also under investigation. Whatever their personal relationship may be, she has become a public laughing stock and a political liability.
To repeat: as neither of the advisers appear to be people of integrity, some may now end up testifying against both the prime minister and his wife. So much for being trusted servants.
All this indicates that the noose around Netanyahu’s political neck is tightening. As one file after another is being opened against him by the police, and as more and more of his advisers are being investigated, it seems only a matter of time before he himself is indicted. The honourable thing would be, of course, for him to resign now and, as a consequence, perhaps all or many of the charges against him would be dropped. But he doesn’t seem to show any sign of doing that and his party doesn’t have an instrument that can compel him to do so. He continues to argue that it’s all a left-wing conspiracy.
What brought Netanyahu to this? Commentators offer many theories. Chief among them seems to be his obsession with the media: his desire to be always depicted in a favourable light. It seems that many of the files opened against him have to do with his and his wife’s wish to manipulate the press. Sadly for the two of them but to the relief of the public at large, their effort seems to have backfired. For the citizens of Israel this should be good news: it suggests that democracy is still alive and well here.
This leaves us with three scenarios. The near future will tell which of them will be acted on.
1. One or more of his coalition partners may refuse to serve under Netanyahu and thus force the collapse of the present government and the forming of an alternative administration. The fact that so far none has rushed to do so is probably the result of their internal polling that tells them that they wouldn’t do well if another government were formed or a general election held.
However, pundits suggest that Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon may pull out his Kulanu party, which would mean the end of this government. He has been ominously silent in recent days. It’s possible that his research suggests that he would do better without Netanyahu, perhaps even replace him.
2. The collapse of the government could lead to an early election. Whether the Likud party would retain Netanyahu as its leader is debatable. Rumour has it that there’re several candidates within his own ranks ready to replace him. How Likud would fare in an election now is difficult to say. It may depend on whom electors identify among the opposition as a potential replacement. And it’s by no means clear that any alternative to Netanyahu would be a better prime minister at this time.
3. The pessimist that I am and listening to the commentators who tell us that Netanyahu is determined to stay on, I fear the third option: a war around Syria and Lebanon and/or in Gaza that would preclude both a change of government and a snap election. I pray to be proven wrong.