Analysis: Netanyahu funding scandal starts succession scuffle

The scandal does prove PM's vulnerability, reminding political observers that at any given point, even the strongest leader can be dealt the blow that can end his political career.

June 8, 2016 09:07
2 minute read.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting, March 20, 2016. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

The Zionist Union MKs who called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to suspend himself due to the scandal over the money he received from a French billionaire knew he would not accept their demand.

Moreover, it is very unlikely this will be the case that will bring down the man who has endured his share of scandals, during his more than 10 years in office.

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But the scandal does prove the vulnerability of Netanyahu, reminding political observers that at any given point, even the strongest leader can be dealt the blow that can end his political career.

Netanyahu, acting as if he wanted to avoid having an evil eye at his cabinet table, has made a point of not appointing a permanent vice premier who would legally take his place if he was forced to suspend himself.

That is what happened when former prime minister Ehud Olmert took over for incapacitated prime minister Ariel Sharon after his stroke.

The Basic Law covers the possibility of a prime minister suspending himself for up to 100 days because he has become incapable of doing his job. The legislators who passed the law had in mind a prime minister with poor health, but it could technically cover other reasons.

The law states that if there is a permanent vice prime minister, he takes over automatically.

If not, the cabinet will vote one of its ministers to fill the role of acting prime minister while the prime minster is incapacitated.

The acting prime minister is supposed to come from the prime minister’s party.

The closest thing Netanyahu has to a vice prime minister are the acting prime ministers who technically fill in for him when he is abroad. Over the past two days while Netanyahu was in Russia, it has been Intelligence Services Minister Israel Katz.

Until he resigned, defense minister Moshe Ya’alon alternated with Katz. But now Katz is the only one who fills in, not only when Netanyahu is abroad but also running cabinet meetings when Netanyahu leaves the room.

So if the next scandal brings Netanyahu down, will it automatically be Katz who takes over? No, but he may have the strongest case.

Then again, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan can go to the Likud, which elected him over Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and Katz as Netanyahu’s No. 2.

And Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz could say that he was the closest minister to Netanyahu, and perhaps Netanyahu will tell the cabinet that he wants Steinitz to fill in.

So those not wanting a succession stickler should hope that Netanyahu continues to stick around and overcome every scandal.

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