PM Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used his share of cliches to downplay the criminal investigations against him on Monday at the Knesset’s new question and answer session.
He said there was neither smoke, nor fire and told Likud ministers to stop their tailors from working on their prime ministerial suits.
And indeed there have been plenty of investigations of politicians in Israel that started as mountains and ended up molehills. But there have also been molehills that ended up mountains.
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert was just as confident when the first allegations against him came out. There were accusations that sounded serious at first but ended up amounting to nothing and there were charges that at first appeared trivial that sent him to jail.
When Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein appeared to give Netanyahu a chance to avoid answering a question about the probes against him, the prime minister confidently insisted on responding. He was given a boost earlier Monday when Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit said news reports about the probe have been incorrect.
But the same journalists who have been reporting the charges against him revealed divisions among law enforcement authorities about the severity of the case and that Netanyahu himself is unaware of the vast material gathered against him.
Chances are Netanyahu will indeed emerge unscathed, as the so-called Teflon prime minister has overcome so many long since forgotten probes.
But the path to that exoneration might not be pretty.
First he will be questioned under caution. Then the police leaks will make him look bad. Probes also lead to more probes, which could be more serious than the current one, and perhaps those will indeed bring him down.
When politicians look weak and vulnerable, that is when their opponents tend to pounce. Netanyahu could face his first serious political challenge in many years.
There may indeed be neither smoke nor fire, but the fumes could smell. And there may indeed be only molehills, but even molehills can be unpleasant when they have to be climbed over and over again before the case against the prime minister is finally decided in one way or another.