Israeli Prime Minister and his Legal Woes

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By: Rachel Watson

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is at risk of losing the April 9 election due to legal issues after 13 years in office. The charges that have been brought against Netanyahu are fraud, bribery, and breach of trust in connection to three separate cases. One such case is Case 1000, which centers on the allegation that Netanyahu accepted gifts worth around $280,000 from billionaire benefactors in exchange for political favors. One of these alleged benefactors is Arnon Milchan, Hollywood producer of films such as “Fight Club” and “Pretty Woman.” The case states that in exchange for Milchan’s generous donations, Netanyahu lobbied U.S. officials to get Milchan a visa and asked that he be exempt from income taxes.

Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit recommended that Netanyahu be charged on February 29, making the allegations against Netanyahu seem legitimate to many Israelis. Netanyahu denies all the claims against him and has stated, “There will be nothing because there is nothing,” a saying often used and believed by his base. Still, the Attorney General’s statement shrouded the Prime Minister’s reputation in doubt. This public distrust of the Prime Minister followed him into the polls. He has already slipped to second place in opinion polls for the upcoming election. An indictment announcement could splinter Netanyahu’s coalition and cause him to lose control of the majority of seats in parliament, especially because Netanyahu has strong opponents running against him this election (Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid) on a joint ticket.

To combat the drop in the polls, Netanyahu moved up the election to April 9. This move could be in Netanyahu’s favor if there is uncertainty around his crimes when the people go to vote. Although his opponents have stated they could pressure him into resigning through legal precedent of past Prime Ministers leaving office after being charged, but it is possible that Netanyahu could maintain his position despite their pressures. Netanyahu still holds favor in the eyes of many Israelis and even foreigners. President Trump sang his praises as having done “a great job as prime minister.” He also made Putin’s season’s greeting list starting in 2015, and even received a greeting last year when tensions between the two nations were particularly high.

Overall, there is a good chance that Netanyahu will remain in power. His supporters may not believe or may simply not care about allegations against him, as he led Israel through the Great Recession, the Arab Spring, the Syrian Civil War, and two conflicts with Hamas in Gaza. Netanyahu has also shown that he is willing to use extreme measures to stay in power, and he very well may do so.

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