By Syed Zafar Mehdi

Netanyahu’s political honeymoon over

March 9, 2019

TEHRAN _With just a month to go until general elections in Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu’s legal troubles have compounded, making his re-election bid difficult.

Israel’s attorney general Avichai Mandelblit dropped a bombshell last week and the timing was impeccable: just before Netanyahu seeks fifth term in office. The announcement, which was being anticipated for two years, has dealt a massive blow to Netanyahu, who is likely to be indicted in three separate cases of corruption.

The criminal cases include granting favors worth millions of dollars to the owner of a media outlet in lieu of favorable coverage for himself, according to reports. The charges have been numbered as Case 1000, Case 2000 and Case 4000. Natan Sachs, Director of the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, writing in the Atlantic said Netanyahu not only faces the personal threat of indictment on serious felonies, but his political maneuver itself is in jeopardy.

“The first polls out following the announcement show a slim lead for the center-left camp. If these results hold, Netanyahu’s path back to the prime minister’s residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem would be blocked,” said Sachs.

Netanyahu, who heads right-wing Likud party, has served consecutive terms as the Zionist entity’s prime minister since 2009. It is apparently the first time a sitting prime minister in Israel will face criminal charges.

Although experts say that he will do everything at his command to subvert the law and declare himself ‘not guilty’, odds are heavily against him at the moment, especially with elections on April 9.

In Case 1000, Netanyahu is accused of accepting illegal gifts from a Hollywood filmmaker, totaling about $200,000, in exchange of helping him secure a U.S. visa and back a law that would give the filmmaker tax exemption if he moves back to Israel.

In Case 2000, Netanyahu faces indictment for supporting a law that would crush one newspaper (Israel Hayom) in exchange for a favorable coverage from its rival newspaper (Yediot Acharonot).

In Case 4000, Netanyahu is accused of backing looser regulation of Israel’s telecom company Bezeg in exchange for positive coverage from Walla, a news website owned by Bezeg.

As it appears, the Zionist war-monger is desperately trying to get good press at a time when he is battling serious problems at the domestic front and in the international community.

He is not only facing a hostile opposition but the judiciary and police have also announced a no-holds barred war against him, which is unprecedented in the history of the Zionist ‘illegitimate’ state.

It is a well-known fact that the Israeli media does not get along with Netanyahu, and just like his megalomaniac friend in Washington, he says the Israeli media is out to get him. Both use the term ‘fake news’ frequently for their respective media outlets.

Hence it was no surprise that Trump quickly jumped up in his defense after the news about indictment came in. “He is tough, smart, strong. He is very defensive, his military has been built up a lot,” he said.

Since the investigations kicked off at the end of 2016, Netanyahu has repeatedly and with sheer disdain attacked media for accusing him of corruption. He has even muzzled their voices.

“Hundreds of journalists have been affected directly or indirectly by Netanyahu’s moves, and Israelis have been besieged by the message that the media is the enemy rather than an instrument that protects them from tyranny,” wrote Anat Balint, media researcher at University of San Francisco, in Haaretz.

Like a typical bully with utter contempt for law, Netanyahu has often said that ‘nothing will happen – because nothing has happened’, since he has been winning elections due to manipulation and fraud.  

Following the announcement by attorney general last week, Netanyahu termed the accusations a ‘left-wing conspiracy’, attacking his political rivals who have launched a strong campaign against him.

Although Netanyahu is the first Israeli prime minister to be indicted for corruption, he is not the first one to be accused of corruption. Before him, Ehud Olmert in 2008 was forced to resign amid allegations of bribery. In 1977, Yitzhak Rabin had to resign after he was accused of holding illegal foreign bank accounts.

So, the legacy of corruption and mismanagement runs deep in Israel’s political system. While others before him quietly stepped down, Netanyahu has so far refused to back off.

What impact Netanyahu’s indictment will have on the upcoming general elections in Israel and his political future remains to be seen. While it is widely believed that he will not succumb to the pressure from judiciary and police, some of the charges are damning and can hurt him deeply.

Whether it will have any impact on the election result, we will know on April 9. But, irrespective of the poll outcome, what is certain is that Netanyahu’s political honeymoon period is over. The future looks bleak for him and for the Zionist entity.

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