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Israel’s anti-corruption measures gather steam

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The Israeli prime minister, cornered by mounting evidence of corruption against him, is looking for an escape route that will keep him in the premier’s post

As’ad Abdul Rahman, Special to Gulf News
17:51 January 12, 2018
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It is ironical that following the adoption of the United Nations General Assembly resolution by a majority, rejecting any change to the status quo in occupied Jerusalem, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused the world body of being a “house of lies”! According to increasing number of journalists, writers and politicians, Netanyahu is, in fact, the one who lives in a “house of lies” with a slew of corruption charges against him. In this context, both the community and the political echelon in Israel are waiting for investigations to be completed by the Israeli police and the Attorney general’s recommendation to charge him with an official indictment after being interrogated seven times. While many prominent Israeli politicians accuse him of lying and demand his resignation, Netanyahu insists on ignoring such developments and has commented on the issue of an indictment against him recently, saying “all police recommendations will be trashed”, words that aroused resentment among many Israelis.

Thousands of Israelis have been taking to the streets every Saturday evening, for the fourth week in a row, (recently joined by Israeli rightists) to protest corruption in the government and demand the resignation of Netanyahu, who branded the last protest as a “march of shame”! Protesters chanted slogans exhorting him and other members of his Cabinet to resign. Former “defence” minister Moshe Ya’alon, emerging as a rival to the prime minister, called for a rally where he announced that “corruption is a greater danger than the Iranian threat, Hezbollah and Hamas. Netanyahu acts as a fugitive setting fire to all of which we lost our children for”. In a remarkable development, the new coalition chairman David Amsalem said that “Netanyahu should step down if indicted on corruption charges”. Former Israeli police commissioner Assaf Heftez also said that “Netanyahu did the worst thing by shaking the public’s trust in the police. He should have resigned after admitting to having received gifts”. Former politician Uzi Baram wrote: “Netanyahu realises that he is in trouble with the public and tries to turn the wheel back. But it is too late for no one can believe any word he says.”

After the Knesset (Israeli parliament) passed the first reading of the “Recommendations Law”, which prevents the police from making recommendations at the end of an investigation, which retroactively apply to the investigations against Netanyahu, Yossi Verter, the internal affairs analyst at Israeli daily Haaretz wrote: “In one of the most shameful moments of the Knesset, the ruling coalition has contributed support to the prime suspect, Netanyahu, through a law that prohibits the publication of the conclusions of the police investigation in files 1000 and 2000. We have never witnessed such a decline, The law was specially tailored to and coordinated with the head of government involved in criminal offences. But as long as the coalition adheres to the rule, every outrageous act is a legal choice, and every fact is a lie, and every lie is the truth.” Commenting on “the aforementioned legislation prohibiting the investigation of a resident prime minister”, Yuval Diskin, former director of Israel’s Security Agency said: “The legislation is corrupt, justifies the exit of the public to the streets if it does not stop. Recent developments in the Knesset and in the coalition confirm that corruption has deep roots in our legislative council.” He continued: “We have a good reason to be afraid of moral values rotting ... If we allow corruption to take its place in the Knesset, we will be defeated, spoiled and mainly rotten.”

“The problem is not Netanyahu”, wrote Nahum Barnea under the title, ‘Israel rolls down into a banana republic’. He said “the problem is the other 119 members of the Knesset, who have to know that they are rolling the state on a smooth slope, on the way to a banana republic”.

As for the importance of Netanyahu to his party, Nadav Haetzni wrote saying that “anyone elected in Netanyahu’s place ... would be better for the Likud and for the state in the present circumstances. More, Netanyahu has become a heavy burden on the Likud and the national camp, not to mention the dangers of desperate steps he will take in an attempt to save his skin”

Although Netanyahu knows that no clear opponent is threatening him on the political front right now, he is certainly more concerned now than ever before, amid indications that the police will soon end the investigations and recommend that he be brought to trial as the weekly popular movement calls for his dismissal. Netanyahu is looking for an escape route that will keep him in the post of Prime Minister until after the parliamentary elections that may have to be called soon if he feels that these elections will save him and return him to the premiership!

Professor As’ad Abdul Rahman is the chairman of the Palestinian Encyclopaedia.

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