Binyamin Netanyahu is now in a fight for his political survival after Israeli police last week recommended that he be charged with bribery, fraud, and breach of public trust. While, as of yet, Netanyahu has not been charged with any wrong doing, the recommendations are politically embarrassing and have brought on calls for his resignation. In a televised public address shortly after the police recommendations were made public, Netanyahu stood defiant and vowed to complete his term as prime minister and win next year’s election. “Our government,” he stated, “will finish its term and I am sure that in the next elections, I will again win your confidence.”
The police recommendations come after more than a year of investigations of wrongdoing by Netanyahu. The allegations against him include the exchange of expensive gifts such as boxes of champagne, Cuban cigars, and jewelry in exchange for political favors. The gifts total nearly $300,000. Also, it is alleged that Netanyahu gave Israel’s biggest-selling newspaper, Yediot Aharonot, special treatment in exchange for positive news coverage. In all there are six separate charges and it will be Israel’s attorney general who will decide whether or not to indict Netanyahu on the charges.
This is not the first time Israeli police have recommended charges against Binyamin Netanyahu. In 1997, during his first stint as prime minister, police recommended he be charged with breach of public trust. However, the allegations were dismissed for lack of evidence. This time, however, key witnesses have testified making the cases recommended against Netanyahu much more likely to bring charges. This also would not be the first time charges have been filed against a sitting Israeli prime minister. Netanyahu’s predecessor, Ehud Olmert, was charged and forced to resign. He was later jailed for corruption.
Some might see the string of corruption accusations against Israeli leaders over the past several decades as evidence that Israeli politicians are dishonest and corrupt. But there is a bright side. It shows the Israeli justice system is indeed healthy.
Currently Netanyahu’s government is intact, and no leaders of its major parties give the appearance of not backing the prime minister. If indictments do come, which could take months for the attorney general to decide, pressure would certainly grow for Netanyahu to resign. However, many believe Netanyahu choosing to resign would not happen. Under Israeli law the prime minister is not required to resign until a conviction, even though there is precedent to the contrary. It is likely he would fight it out in the form of new elections to restore his mandate.