Analysis

Before Netanyahu Departs, It's Going to Get Ugly

Many people on the right won’t blink at breaching the rule of law at the behest of their leader

Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu at a Likud party conference, August 2017.
Ofer Vaknin

They used to say that with even the slightest whiff of corruption in the room, Benjamin Netanyahu, unlike some of his predecessors, would be gone – less for moral reasons and more because of his extreme caution that sometimes borders on a persecution complex. That thesis persisted for years, surviving even the current onslaught of investigations.

But now come the suspicions that Netanyahu associate Nir Hefetz offered the attorney generalship to Judge Hila Gerstl if she closed a case into the prime minister’s wife Sara. And we’ve also learned about the state’s-evidence agreement by another Netanyahu crony – former Communications Ministry Director General Shlomo Filber – regarding alleged corruption at the country’s dominant telecom company, Bezeq. These two shockers could bring down not only the Bibi-will-leave thesis but also the entire Israeli political order.

Case 1000 – billionaires lavishing gifts to Netanyahu worth hundreds of thousands of shekels – and Case 2000 – favorable coverage from the Yedioth Ahronoth daily if Netanyahu limited the circulation of its free rival Israel Hayom – sound like popguns compared to the cannon now seen smoking.

Now Case 1270 involves suspicions that the Holy of Holies of the rule of law, the attorney generalship, was the subject of a proposed trade. How did Netanyahu get into such a mess? Did he create a mafia-style system where minions – now sitting in interrogation rooms and shedding their historical roles – do the dirty work to prevent the boss from leaving fingerprints? Or does he just have poor taste in associates; people who turn out to harbor ambitions of corrupting and being corrupted?

Until recently, people not seized by a Netanyahu obsession – and regardless of their political bent or even revulsion at Netanyahu’s leadership style – would have chosen the “bad taste in associates” option as the sensible choice. But the “insanity,” as Netanyahu calls it as his regime totters under the suspicions against him, tilts toward the first option.

These are historic days, politically and perhaps for all society. The Bibi camp in Likud is closing ranks and still has a hold over many people on the right who remain afraid to speak up. This bunker isn’t just a habit, it’s designed to curb hysteria in the uncertainty of the post-Netanyahu chaos.

This camp won’t blink at breaching the rule of law at the behest of its leader. Before Benjamin Netanyahu steps off the stage, a lot of very painful things are going to happen.