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Netanyahu may face Olmert’s fate

Likud officials are preparing for the possibility of a political shake-up that may involve elections and formation of an alternative government, but there is little likelihood of a change in Israel’s oppressive policies

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Dwynn Ronald V. Trazo/©Gulf News

Many Israeli politicians and analysts expect a political shake-up in Israel, where the extreme rightist leader of the occupation government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may face the fate of his predecessor Ehud Olmert, bringing an end to his political career, plunged into a quagmire of corruption right now. Israel is witnessing rapid developments on a daily basis in terms of the three corruption cases and charges against Netanyahu, his wife and a number of his staff members. Israeli police plans to further investigate him after the Jewish holidays in mid-October over new charges in two more cases of corruption.

Recently, Netanyahu and his ruling Likud party stopped underestimating these issues. While some of the ministers had to get out of a long silence and announce their support for Netanyahu, others began to think of the day after his departure. The newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported that “senior Likud officials are preparing for the possibility of a big political shake-up that may involve elections, the formation of an alternative government in the event of an indictment of Netanyahu, and of course — a struggle for heirs”. Quoting those officials, the newspaper said that “if an indictment against the prime minister is filed on a serious charge, they will stop supporting him, and the party may not allow him to stay”.

Former prime minister Ehud Barak accused Netanyahu of “practising a policy of turning a blind eye to the corruption rooted in the Israeli government and working within a plan aimed at dismissing those fighting corruption, and appointing those close to him who obey him. This has not happened in the history of Israel.” “The worst thing”, Barak added, is that “Netanyahu seeks to maintain his position in power for the longest period possible. Therefore, the real response to such a decline is first to bring down Netanyahu and then look for a new Israeli leadership.”

Netanyahu has been the subject of inquiries for months into alleged fraud, breach of trust and bribery. His wife also faces charges of bribery and misuse of public funds. In this regard, “The [Israeli] Right is trying to portray it as a political struggle led by the Left against the prime minister,” said Yair Lapid, head of the There is a Future party. He added that “this is not a political struggle for all those involved in corruption were appointed by Netanyahu”. “If an indictment is filed against Netanyahu, he cannot continue to serve as prime minister,” he said. In his comments on the developments, the new Labor party leader Avi Gabbay believes that “there is a corrupt network working against the security of the state of Israel. There is a corrupt government culture, and who determines this culture is the one who stands at the head of the government. We are at the height of a crisis and at the beginning of the correction that will clean the rot of a decade.” For his part, Nahum Barnea wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth saying: “I have long said that Netanyahu will bring down Netanyahu himself, not Gabbay or Lapid, but Netanyahu; the personal name may be Yair (his son), Sarah (his wife) or Benjamin or all of them together. Self-destruction works strongly and there is no one who can stop it.”

Columnist Yossi Verter wrote in Haaretz that “Netanyahu did not learn anything from the fall of his predecessor (Olmert). He acted stupidly and unknowingly and lost his restraint and morals. But the nature of his character, the long years in power, his feeling that everything but him is below zero, and the overconfidence that he will remain in office as long as he wants to have led him to the backward path that will bring about his political end.”

However, experts in Israel estimate that the parties involved in the rightest ruling coalition will not exert pressure on Netanyahu, but will, as usual, seek to blackmail him and achieve expansionist, undemocratic and even fascist political gains without causing the government to be overthrown. This has been confirmed by the decisions of Netanyahu, who recently changed his positions on several issues, adopting those put forward by extremist coalition parties — foremost among them being the imposition of the death penalty on Palestinians convicted of carrying out attacks and supporting the so-called Jerusalem Law, which requires the support of two-thirds (80) of Knesset members to authorise an Israeli withdrawal from occupied Jerusalem or some of its areas.

While media criticism poured in on Netanyahu’s behaviour and attitude, Leftist journalist Gideon Levy put his finger on the rightist nature of Israel, prevailing for long years, saying: “Naftali Bennett, Ayelet Shaked and Avigdor Lieberman will remain ... and the Arabs’ hatred will remain.” He further said: “How tempting it is to think that only Netanyahu will change and that Israel will become another country as we dreamed, and that the next day of Netanyahu will be the dawn of a new day in which all the bad things will disappear. How wonderful to think that those who come after Netanyahu will be better than him, and the next government will carry hope, that the years of the religious right are over, and that no one will come worse than Netanyahu.” He concluded: “Yes, it is an important thing to see an end to Netanyahu and his family, so that Israel becomes a more just place and that Israel without him will be non-nationalist, non-racist, non-occupier, non-corrupt and not arrogant or violent. Yet, this is dragging far from reality. Ousting Netanyahu will not free us of anything.” Levy went on to add: “Except getting rid of his wife and son, what is certain is that Netanyahu will go and the Israeli occupation will remain. Netanyahu will go and Israel will remain as ever an occupying state.”

Professor As’ad Abdul Rahman is the chairman of the Palestinian Encyclopaedia.

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