Netanyahu feels the end is near

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Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now acknowledging that police are expected to recommend his indictment for accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust. The admission from the premier, now in his third consecutive term in office, is as stunning as the charges.

Netanyahu is facing at least two cases that could ultimately bring him down. Case 1000 involves allegations that Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, inappropriately accepted, even demanded, expensive gifts in return for political favors.

Regarding Case 2000, Netanyahu is suspected of a quid pro quo, negotiating favorable coverage with the publisher of a newspaper that has often criticized him, Yedioth Ahronoth, in exchange for curtailing the circulation, by way of a bill, of its biggest competitor, Israel Hayom.

Netanyahu is a central figure, but not a suspect, in Case 3000, a police inquiry into Israel’s questionable multibillion-dollar procurement of German-made naval vessels and submarines. Numerous close associates, including senior aides and his personal lawyer and cousin, have been questioned or arrested.

On Facebook, although acknowledging that the long arm of the law was closing in on him, Netanyahu remained defiant, casting aspersions on the team investigating him. But his claim that the only person qualified to determine whether there is evidence against him was not the police commissioner but the attorney general, who discusses the matter with the state attorney, was feeble. It doesn’t matter who collects the evidence; the important thing is what the evidence reveals.

Netanyahu’s recognition that the noose is getting tighter is almost as extraordinary as the revelation by Israel’s police commissioner Inspector General Roni Alsheikh that the police team investigating Netanyahu had been pursued by private investigators collecting information against them and that they had been hired by “powerful figures”.

If there were, as Alsheikh claims, private investigators who tried to collect incriminating information about those who were on the Netanyahu cases by sniffing around their relatives and neighbors and asking questions – that must be looked into. Maybe footprints leading to the premier will be found.

For 18 months, Alsheikh and his team have been subjected to attacks from every direction: social media, the Knesset, the coalition and Likud, a campaign probably led by Netanyahu and his Likud MP henchmen in a concentrated effort to delegitimize the law. Netanyahu is trying to discredit the police in order to delegitimize investigations that could undermine his political future. He is trying to create a spin and present himself as the victim.

Every leak from the investigations, every trickle, even if it did not originate with the police, will serve as a weapon in the hands of Netanyahu and his spokespeople to allege that the police work was biased and vengeful.

Although Alsheikh is a Netanyahu appointee, it is possible that Netanyahu had a feeling the appointment might come back to haunt him. The promise he made to Alsheikh on the eve of the latter’s appointment as police commissioner – to appoint him head of the Shin Bet security service after he completed his tenure with the police – is enough to lead one to suspect that Netanyahu was thinking that – who knows? – Alsheikh might one day return to bite the hand that fed him.

This long series of investigations that has gone on and on and passed various deadlines is finally coming to an end. The police report is expected next week when the conclusions reached by investigators, along with new details and testimony will be made public. A final decision regarding any indictment of Netanyahu is likely to be months away. In the meantime, Netanyahu insists that, while the police are on the verge of knocking at his door, at the end of the day the legal authorities will arrive at one conclusion: There is nothing. That claim should be left for the law and for public opinion to decide.


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