Facing overwhelming evidence of bribery and corruption, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu is rolling the dice on April early elections in order to cement power and to dare Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to indict him during the campaign so that Netanyahu can "prove" the attacks against him are political in nature.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday called early elections for April, setting the stage for a three-month campaign clouded by a series of corruption investigations against the long-serving Israeli leader.
Riding high in the polls, Netanyahu appears all but certain to win a fourth consecutive term and a place in history as the country’s longest-serving prime minister. Those bright prospects, however, could be derailed by a looming decision by the country’s attorney general on whether to file charges against Netanyahu.
Netanyahu, facing the possibility of bribery and breach of trust charges in three different cases, made scant mention of these investigations at a gathering of his Likud Party as he announced plans for what is expected to be an April 9 vote.
Appearing loose and confident, he listed his government’s accomplishments in office and said he hoped his current religious, nationalistic coalition would be the “core” of Israel’s next government as well.
“We will ask the voters for a clear mandate to continue leading the state of Israel our way,” he said to applause from party members.
Netanyahu, who also served a term in the late 1990s, has been prime minister for the past decade.
His supporters point to a humming, high-tech economy, his handling of security issues, particularly countering the threat of Iranian influence in the region, and his gains on the diplomatic stage, including a close alliance with President Donald Trump that has paid important dividends.
Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his withdrawal from the international nuclear deal were both welcomed by Netanyahu. The Israeli leader also has quietly forged ties with Sunni Arab states, further sidelining the Palestinians, who have severed ties with the U.S. because they believe Trump is biased against them.
The White House still has not released a long-awaited peace plan, and Monday’s announcement could further delay its release.
But critics say these gains have come at a deep price to Israel’s democratic ideals. Netanyahu’s hard-line government has promoted a series of laws that critics say are aimed at muzzling liberal critics and sidelining the minority Arab population. They point to wide gaps between rich and poor and high cost of living, and say that by neglecting the Palestinian issue and continuing to build settlements in the West Bank, the country is on the path to becoming an apartheid-like binational state.
Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak called the election “the most fateful” since the assassination of then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.
“If we all act properly, on April 10 we will part with Netanyahu,” he said on Hahadashot TV. “The state of Israel will get on a different path instead of this nationalist, racist, dark vision.”
I have to admit it's a good plan. Even if Netanyahu is indicted soon, he can simply stall until elections and remain in office, and if he wins even with charges against him, he maintains control and can tie up the case against him, maybe indefinitely.
No, the only way to get rid of Netanyahu now is for him to lose in April, and I don't think that will happen.