There Are No Good Scenarios For Netanyahu’s Future
For the first time in "Israel’s” history, a sitting prime minister has been indicted for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. It is a resounding precedent that will surely have implications on Netanyahu's personal and family life. In terms of his professional life, the indictment initiated the fading of his political star.
Within the political class, it will reproduce groups vying for the leadership role, each considering itself to be the rightful successor to Netanyahu. Within the right-wing camp, there are serious doubts regarding the ability of any alternative leader to maintain Netanyahu’s bloc and family. As for the political arena, the overthrow of Netanyahu will lead to the redrawing of the map, paving the way for new party alliances in the “Israeli” entity. This is because his presence at the helm and the Likud presidency obstructed the weaving of many alliances.
The indictment comes following prolonged political, media and legal wrangling (the dissolution of the Knesset and disruptions to the formation of a government). It can generally be said that Netanyahu did not succeed in achieving what he hoped for, but he was able to delay the indictment against him. These games have had negative political, economic and social effects on the “Israeli” reality.
Netanyahu did not concede to the move by “Israel’s” Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, and he labeled the indictment as an attempted coup against him personally and the right-wing as a whole.
"I will not allow lies to prevail. I will continue to lead the country, according to the letter of the law, with responsibility, devotion and concern for all of our futures," Netanyahu said. He even demanded to "investigate the investigators". This indicates that he will throw everything into the fight to protect himself in the hope of avoiding prison.
It should be noted that according to media reports, Netanyahu will not be tried for a year and a half. There are still many subsequent steps which may have implications, such as the granting of immunity to Netanyahu by the Knesset. But this requires a Knesset House Committee that has not been appointed yet. It is usually appointed following the formation of the government through an agreement between the Knesset majority parties.
For Netanyahu, the biggest challenge at this stage is whether the attorney general's decision will affect 's his ability to form the next government. The decision to indict will determine the course of the internal and governmental situation.
Legally, there is no legislation obligating Netanyahu to step down. As such, the Supreme Court has the final word on whether Netanyahu is competent to form the next government.
Netanyahu’s problem in this context lies in that the Supreme Court has already prevented many figures from taking high positions over suspicions and accusations. It prevented Major General Yoav Galant from assuming the post of army chief of staff, ten years ago, and canceled his appointment after he was selected by the government. Similarly, the court reversed the government's decision to appoint officer Chico Edri as Police Inspector General, more than a year ago, and canceled his appointment.
These precedents reinforce arguments that the Supreme Court's decision may be unfavorable to Netanyahu. And if this most pessimistic scenario happens, it will be the end of his political career. He will only be left with an attempt to request immunity as he is a Knesset member. This takes a different course. The decisions of the Supreme Court are binding on all state institutions and cannot be appealed.
An additional indication of the tightening of the noose around Netanyahu's neck is underscored by what many legal experts reported. The attorney general will not wait for petitions to the Supreme Court to submit his position on Netanyahu's incompetence to form a government.
It is true that the charge is a criminal offense and the decision is judicial. However, it is being issued against a prime minister who is at the same time the leader of the right-wing camp. Hence, it is expected to have political implications and repercussions on the entire political system in "Israel".
The first and most obvious of these consequences is that Netanyahu's fate has been sealed in principle and that he will be ousted sooner or later. All the maneuvers, alliances, media and political campaigns no longer work. But he may be successful in delaying his downfall, or perhaps reaching a deal later. If the judiciary were in agreement, the deal would include him stepping down and confessing everything in exchange for avoiding prison.
However, things are only getting started. There is a range of possible scenarios, but they all end up with him being ousted from office. Even if he can get a favorable Supreme Court decision and push for a third election, it will have an impact on Likud, and perhaps also on his chances of being appointed by the head of state, especially since he was formally charged with serious corruption charges.
The other scenario involves the growing voices from within Likud calling for Netanyahu’s resignation to save the party and prevent a third election by pushing for a Likud primary, and hoping for Netanyahu to be replaced. This is what his arch-rival Gideon Sa'ar is demanding. He claims he is capable of forming a government and uniting the people.
Remarkably, Netanyahu’s trial began politically and in the sphere of public opinion as soon as the indictments were issued. "The [state] of 'Israel' against Netanyahu" dominated the headlines. It seems that one of the first indications of the effects of this political trial is the position from sources in the Likud explaining that Netanyahu “should understand that his era is over. It is time for change.”
What separates this indictment from the parameters of the judiciary is that it came after Netanyahu and Gantz exhausted all efforts to form a government. So, now the ball is in the Knesset’s court when it comes to the formation of the government. This may provide an opportunity to avoid the option of a third election if Netanyahu is ousted, either from the Likud leadership or by a judicial decision disqualifying him from forming a government. It would then be easy for 61 members of the Knesset [MKs] to agree on a replacement for the task of forming a government. The Likud chairman would likely be the one appointed to form the government.
Usually in such situations, predictions appear about the possibility of Netanyahu pushing for a regional war to stay in office or avoid prison. However, several clarifications must be made:
- The decision to wage war in "Israel" is not the prerogative of the prime minister alone but the kitchen cabinet. The chief of staff, the intelligence apparatus and other security services usually take part in the consultations.
- The problem for Netanyahu at this point, specifically after his indictment, is that he is under a microscope more so than ever before. This will raise question marks over any move he supports.
- Any decision about launching a war, in general, requires the blessing from the military establishment, even if the law allows the political leadership to make a decision contrary to the recommendation of the military and intelligence. But as a result of the enormous losses expected from any particular regional confrontation along the northern front, this blessing becomes more than necessary.
- If a decision was taken in this direction with the approval and support of the military establishment, then there would be a synchronization between Netanyahu’s alleged interests and the launching of this war. In this case, Netanyahu could use it for political and personal interests. This type of investment is legitimate and approved in "Israel".
However, any military confrontation of any scope and in any location is unlikely to have a serious impact in rescuing Netanyahu. The most that can happen is that some proceedings are postponed until after the battle is over. And then things take their course.
The aforementioned does not mean that the new situation will not have an impact on Netanyahu's decisions. But it can be said that his margin for pushing towards a military option is narrowing. Netanyahu could have initiated this step in the period before the decision of the attorney general. The results may have been more useful to him.