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Netanyahu indictment does not help sorting out Israel’s political imbroglio

Despite vigorous denials of any wrongdoing, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was indicted on Tuesday for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust as part of a long-running corruption investigation. The indictment followed almost instantaneously the Prime Minister’s decision to abandon his bid for immunity from prosecution and came just before the Prime Ministers meeting with President Trump in Washington.

The indictment throws a curve ball into the current political situation in Israel where the country is heading to a third election in less than a year as no government could be formed after the previous two elections in 2019. As neither Netayahu’s nor Benny Gantz’s attempt at forming a coalition government succeeded after the September elections, the country is now heading for a new election on March 2nd.

Tuesday’s indictment is the first of a sitting Prime Minister in Israel, and the inability to form a government after elections was also unheard of until the latest elections. But now comes an even bigger first, not only is Netanyahu an indicted Prime Minister, he will be leading his party into the upcoming elections that may see him be victorious again.

What is clear at this point is that no party has the possibility to win the required majority to be able to form directly a government (61 seats out of 120), so a coalition will be required to enable forming a government. This makes it entirely plausible that Israel’s political deadlock continues past March. If no party wins a big enough majority, and no possible coalition emerge, there is nothing stopping the same problems of 2019 from continuing. Such an outcome remains a strong possibility as it seems that not much has changed with the exception of Netanyahu’s indictment.  The general public’s opinion does not seem to have changed much and it is not said at all that Netanyahu’s legal problems will sway enough voters to unlock the situation. We have to remember that Netanyahu effectively won the elections of 2019 despite his legal issues having already come to light and the difference here is just that there is now an official indictment.

Benjamin Netanyahu and the official line of the Likud party that he leads is very clear, the indictments are just part of a witch hunt orchestrated by the Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit against the Prime Minister and a Likud spokesperson made it clear that the Prime Minister is a target of obsessive persecution and that the charges are totally unfounded. It is more than certain that Netanyahu will continue on the same path as until now to try to won the elections again and he seems to just want to shrug off any ill effects of the indictments.

In the meanwhike Benny Gantz will of course do all in his power to try to attract more voters and to be able to attempt again at forming a government to take Israel out of the current predicament.

It is becoming critical for Israel to be able form an effective government, especially now that the Trump administration has come out with their new Middle East peace plan which could lead to extensive actions being taken in the West Bank to annex the settlements officially into Israel.

All eyes are now on the March elections and the weeks and months that will follow them. Will Israel finally exit the impasse, will a government be formed, what will happen with Netanyahu’s indictments and has the new Middle East peace plan any chance of working. At this point, it’s anyone’s guess.

By J. Costa

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