Netanyahu is already painting the police recommendation to indict him as a political witch hunt. That will have significant consequences on how the attorney general proceeds, and what Israel’s second-longest serving prime minister does to survive.
The Israeli police on Tuesday recommended indicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in two corruption cases, referred to as Case 1000 and Case 2000. In Case 1000, Netanyahu is suspected of trying to advance the interests of Israeli tycoon Arnon Milchen in exchange for lavish gifts he and his wife demanded; in Case 2000, Netanyahu was recorded plotting to pursue regulatory changes that would have assisted the daily paper Yedioth Ahronoth in exchange for “indefinite” positive coverage, as promised by the paper’s publisher, Arnon Mozes. Netanyahu is suspected of receiving or being offered bribes in both cases.
Netanyahu doesn’t deny the facts, only the police’s interpretation of them. In a live message Tuesday evening, he tried to rally his base by claiming (as he has in the past) that he is the victim of politically motivated attacks. He also vowed not to resign. Tuesday’s big news – the involvement of Yair Lapid, Netanyahu’s main political rival, as a key witness for the prosecution in Case 1000 – assists Bibi in politicizing the discourse around the affair even further.
So what’s next for Bibi?
The decision whether to press charges lies in the hands of the Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who will likely take months to consider the evidence, maybe even a full year. Theoretically, Mandelblit could make up his mind much sooner, since the prosecution was involved in the police investigation from its inception, as it does in high profile cases – but this is unlikely for legal and political reasons alike.
If Mandelblit presses charges, the assumption is that Bibi’s coalition partners would resign, leading to early elections. But the common wisdom is that if Bibi senses an indictment coming he will call snap elections. Mandelblit won’t be able to announce his decision during a campaign – for fear of tipping the elections, and once Bibi wins, it will be politically difficult for the attorney general to press charges at all (if Netanyahu loses it won’t matter anyway). On the other hand, if the public pressure against Bibi intensifies, things might move faster.
Personally, I don’t see how Mandelblit can avoid pressing charges without it being seen as a cover-up. A decision not to indict...Read More