Corruption scandals have some Israelis pondering a post-Netanyahu world
After 11 years running the region’s most powerful and economically dynamic nation, the reign of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has suffered a major blow in recent days as mounting legal pressure enveloping him, his wife and close associates on charges of corruption and fraud have some Israelis pondering the prospect of a post-Netanyahu future.
Multiple conspiratorial cases of legal scandals involving the Netanyahus have gone from background noise to the forefront in the past few days since investigations in four cases began months — or even years — ago.
The combative, conservative Mr. Netanyahu is one of the world’s longest-serving leaders and has secured his grip on power domestically, uniting a coalition government and a nation behind his vision of a secure and prosperous Israel that is not shy about pressing its own national interests.
Neither war nor terrorism has threatened his power — they may actually have strengthened it — but his single-minded desire to retain and strengthen his power and influence by any means may now threaten to initiate his downfall.
“The suspicions of corruption against [the prime minister] are reaching a critical mass, casting a pall over his continued tenure in office,” the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, a frequent critic of Mr. Netanyahu, wrote in its lead editorial last Monday.
Israeli law enforcement and officials are nearing a potential indictment against the prime minister, and despite no law in the country compelling his resignation, public pressure could force Mr. Netanyahu to step down as premier, initiate a shakeup among his Likud party and possibly send the country to early elections.
In light of recent developments — most notably Mr. Netanyahu’s former chief of staff, Ari Harow, turning state witness in corruption cases against the prime minister — Likud party members have expressed support for the prime minister and even announced a rally for Mr. Netanyahu to be held in the coming days.
Mr. Netanyahu has vehemently denied the charges against him, posting a statement on his public Facebook page condemning the allegations and saying the investigation is doomed.
“There will be nothing, because there was nothing,” the post read in Hebrew.
If public pressure mounts, Mr. Netanyahu could offer to step down amid the controversy, leading to political jockeying in his own party for who would succeed him as prime minister. Gilad Erdan, the public security and information minister, is the second in the Likud hierarchy.
Another scenario is the government could move toward a vote of no confidence in November, when lawmakers return from an extended summer recess, political analyst Gil Hoffman wrote in The Jerusalem Post. That could set into motion early elections for 2018, a year ahead of schedule.
The fall of Mr. Netanyahu would also provide an opening for the leaders of main political ideologies fighting against the entrenched establishment and one another.