What hap­pens if the four-term PM is in­dicted?

Gulf News - - From The Cover -

Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu is the dom­i­nant Is­raeli politi­cian of his gen­er­a­tion.

On the do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional stage, no ri­val comes close to the vet­eran Likud Party leader.

Is­raeli po­lice on Tues­day rec­om­mended that the 68-year-old, fourterm prime min­is­ter be in­dicted for bribery in two cases.

It is by no means cer­tain that Ne­tanyahu will be in­dicted.

The po­lice can only make rec­om­men­da­tions. It is now up to Is­rael’s at­tor­ney-gen­eral, Avichai Man­del­blit, to de­cide whether to press charges. That de­ci­sion could take months.

But the very fact that the leader of Is­rael’s rul­ing right-wing coali­tion is be­ing scru­ti­nised by prose­cu­tors will likely af­fect the po­lit­i­cal cal­cu­la­tions of his sup­port­ers, ri­vals and op­po­nents within his own coali­tion, and across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum.

Here is a guide to Ne­tanyahu’s ca­reer and some pos­si­ble can­di­dates to suc­ceed him:

Does Ne­tanyahu have to re­sign?

Ne­tanyahu is un­der no strict le­gal obli­ga­tion to quit fol­low­ing the po­lice rec­om­men­da­tions. In­deed, he has given ev­ery in­di­ca­tion that he in­tends to re­main in of­fice while pur­su­ing a le­gal bat­tle.

There has been lit­tle pub­lic pres­sure from coali­tion part­ners for him to step down, although that could change as fel­low politi­cians and the Is­raeli pub­lic study de­tails of the cases.

There was spec­u­la­tion be­fore the po­lice rec­om­men­da­tions were made pub­lic on Tues­day that Ne­tanyahu might call early elec­tions, seek­ing a pub­lic man­date that would make a pros­e­cu­tor think twice be­fore mov­ing against him.

How­ever, sev­eral polls in re­cent months have shown his pop­u­lar­ity ebbing. And Ne­tanyahu said in a tele­vised ad­dress on Tues­day night that he was “cer­tain” the next elec­tions would be held on sched­ule. They are not due un­til Novem­ber 2019.

How did Ne­tanyahu be­come such a dom­i­nant fig­ure in Is­raeli pol­i­tics?

Ne­tanyahu has been in power on and off since 1996. The son of a hawk­ish Is­raeli his­to­rian, he was born in Tel Aviv in 1949 and moved to the United States in the 1960s when his fa­ther got an aca­demic job there.

He is the se­cond of three broth­ers, all of whom served in elite Is­raeli com­mando units.

Speak­ing flu­ent Amer­i­can-ac­cented English, he first gained do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion as Is­rael’s am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions dur­ing the first Pales­tinian in­tifada (upris­ing) in 1987.

He used this as a spring­board to se­cure the lead­er­ship of the right-wing Likud party, run­ning on a plat­form of op­po­si­tion to the 1993 Oslo in­terim peace ac­cords that were spear­headed by then US pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, Is­rael’s then prime min­is­ter, Yitzhak Rabin, and Pales­tinian leader Yasser Arafat.

But Rabin was as­sas­si­nated in 1995 and Ne­tanyahu was elected prime min­is­ter the fol­low­ing year, the youngest ever Is­raeli to hold the po­si­tion and the first to be born in Is­rael.

De­spite hav­ing op­posed Oslo, Ne­tanyahu worked with Arafat on de­ploy­ing Pales­tinian forces into the flash­point oc­cu­pied West Bank city of He­bron, and even shook Arafat’s hand in pub­lic.

But his first term as prime min­is­ter was widely seen as a fail­ure. Crit­ics as­sailed what was seen as a di­vi­sive style of lead­er­ship and, af­ter los­ing the elec­tion in 1999, he spent a pe­riod in the se­cond rank of Is­raeli pol­i­tics, over­shad­owed even within his own party by for­mer gen­eral Ariel Sharon.

Re­turn­ing to promi­nence af­ter Sharon left Likud and then suf­fered an in­ca­pac­i­tat­ing stroke in 2005, Ne­tanyahu was elected for his se­cond term in 2009 — 10 years af­ter his first. The last elec­tion was in 2015, and Ne­tanyahu will be­come Is­rael’s long­est-serv­ing leader if he serves the full four years un­til elec­tions are next due in Novem­ber 2019.

A fa­mil­iar fig­ure in Wash­ing­ton dat­ing back to the 1980s Rea­gan ad­min­is­tra­tion, Ne­tanyahu most re­cently had a strained re­la­tion­ship with for­mer US pres­i­dent Barack Obama, es­pe­cially over his op­po­si­tion to the July 2015 Iran nu­clear deal pro­moted by the US leader.

But he has been much closer to Obama’s suc­ces­sor, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

On De­cem­ber 6 last year Trump re­versed decades of US for­eign pol­icy and recog­nised oc­cu­pied Jerusalem as the cap­i­tal of Is­rael. He also said he would move the US em­bassy to the city.

Both moves were hailed by Ne­tanyahu and proved very pop­u­lar with Is­raelis, although Pales­tini­ans — who seek oc­cu­pied East Jerusalem as the cap­i­tal of their fu­ture state — and po­lit­i­cal and re­li­gious lead­ers across the Mid­dle East were dis­mayed.

So proud is Ne­tanyahu of his re­la­tion­ship with Trump that he has a pic­ture of the two shak­ing hands at the top of his Face­book page. He is likely to use his re­la­tion­ship with the leader of the world’s most pow­er­ful coun­try in any fu­ture ap­peal to the Is­raeli pub­lic.


Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu and then Pales­tinian Na­tional Au­thor­ity pres­i­dent Yasser Arafat af­ter sign­ing an agree­ment on the par­tial with­drawal of Is­raeli oc­cu­pa­tion troops from the West Bank dur­ing a meet­ing in Gaza on Jan­uary 15, 1997.

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