On Tuesday January 28th 2020, Benjamin Netanyahu was indicted on three separate corruption cases, becoming Israel’s first Prime Minister to be criminally charged while holding office. Attorney General Avichai Mandelbilt formally submitted the indictment after Netanyahu withdrew his request for parliamentary immunity, a move which Al-Monitor’s Akiva Eldar claimed was imminent due to a lack of “sufficient support” in the Knesset. Netanyahu, a member of the highly conservative Likud Party, has categorically denied these allegations since they were first presented in November, of which include accusations of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Specifically, the New York Times has reported that Netanyahu, “offered to take official action benefiting wealthy media tycoons in exchange for gifts and fawning, lopsided news coverage of himself and his family and rough treatment of his adversaries.”
Netanyahu is under no legal obligation to resign unless convicted, and therefore will seek out a term extension in the upcoming election next March. Fearing that parliamentary immunity proceedings would inevitably dominate the coverage of his campaign, several Likud party members reportedly urged the Prime Minister to drop his request. However, Netanyahu continues to openly criticize the validity of the investigation, claiming the charges are evidence of an “attempted coup” orchestrated by the state’s left wing political parties and media outlets. In response, opposition against Netanyahu has noticeably increased, most prominently from the liberal Blue and White Alliance Party leader Benny Gantz, who openly criticized Netanyahu on Tuesday for failing to step down amidst these accusations, claiming “nobody [can] run a country and simultaneously manage three serious criminal charges.”
The timing of this poor press coverage is especially problematic for Netanyahu, who on Tuesday was with President Donald Trump in Washington D.C. for the unveiling of the new Middle Eastern Peace Plan. This “deal of the century” as described by Trump, increases Israel’s sovereign authority over territory in the West Bank and does little to reprimand the state from illegally annexing Palestinian territory and establishing jewish settlements. According to the New York Times, the agreement will enable Israel to annex up to 30% of the entire West Bank, leaving virtually no opportunity for the Palestinians to ever establish a contiguous nation. With Likud being a staunch supporter of these settlements, this deal, if not overshadowed by Netanyahu’s recent indictment, could provide the party with a major political victory less than five weeks from the March election. Unsurprisingly, Netanyahu has slammed the recent coverage concerning his indictment in an attempt to “delegitimize the corruption cases and the investigation process,” according to CNN’s Oren Libermann. In a statement released on Facebook, Netanyahu called out his critics for failing to “[understand] the magnitude of the hour and [rise] above political considerations,” and that the indictment is “the continuation of a personal and possessive hunt against me by the ‘Anyone But Bibi’ people.” Furthermore, Netanyahu proclaimed that he “will not allow my political opponents to use this matter to interfere with the historical move I’m leading.”
The case against Netanyahu could very well take several years to formally complete due expected lengthy court proceedings and the Prime Minister’s right to an appeal should a conviction verdict be made. Therefore, the only remaining check on Netanyahu’s attempt to retain his grasp of political power resides among the citizens of Israel, who on March 2, will incredibly participate in the state’s third national election within the last year. This is due to the failure of Israeli lawmakers “to build a government coalition” ahead of the December 11, 2019 deadline, which, according to the Times of Israel, “automatically dispersed” the 22nd Knesset. One would hope that in this unprecedented moment in Israeli politics that the Prime Minister would be able to offer a sense of hope and optimism amidst this political gridlock. However, the corruption allegations against Netanyahu are the main source of this division, and ultimately demonstrate why he is clearly unfit to lead Israel and guide the nation through this troubled internal crisis.
Ultimately, Israel will have a major decision to make in a few short weeks. Will the people allow Netanyahu to obtain control in the Israeli government while facing three separate criminal indictments, or will a new figure rise up and lead Israel out of this political catastrophe? For far too long, Israel’s current Prime Minister has brought nothing more than chaos and disarray to the Knesset and its citizens, while also promoting the theft of Palestinian land and illegal settlements across the West Bank. By electing a new Prime Minister, Israel can put an end to this unlawful behavior and remove a divisive and unqualified individual from power, who has downplayed a criminal investigation against him as a “circus.”
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