Bibi is as fascinating as he is worrying. His skills as politician and public speaker qualify for the label of wunderkind, even as he approaches his 70th birthday. Yet his personal appetites, those of his wife and at least one of his sons, and associates who may be even more corrupt (with his help), raise the specter of Greek tragedy where he seems destined to fall as an individual even while having a good prospect of winning yet another national election for his party.

 
Loud and frequent applause marked Bibi's appearance before some 18,000 people attending the AIPAC convention in Washington, reinforced by resounding speeches in support of Israel by UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and Vice President Mike Pence.
 
After several other supportive appearances in the US, the Prime Minister returned to mounting reports of former aides turning against him, some equipped with  incriminating recordings of conversations.


We've been on the cusp of a political crisis with the prospect of an election. An ultra-Orthodox Knesset Member has demanded enactment of legislation that will tweak in an insignificant manner the manner in which ultra-Orthodox young men evade the draft. At the same time, the Finance Minister and leader of a small party struggling to maintain itself in the polls, insists on the greater priority of enacting a budget bill that could be postponed without significant damage,  given automatic procedures for continuing expenditures.


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Other coalition partners have imported a word into Hebrew from Trump's America, and calling it a פייק משבר (fake crisis).


The demands of various politicians appear so dumb as to suggest that they are hiding their true reasons. 


And the best guess is that they're betting on Bibi's demise.


It's a situation where its even harder than usual to know what the politicians are thinking.


And that may mean that they can't make up their mind.


While some may wonder if an election is a way to get rid of Bibi, others see it as a way to assure his continued career.


Some of the rightists are salivating. and at least a few leftists, centrists, and all who distrust Bibi are sweating .


Current polls are showing that Bibi and Likud remain the most popular, with little prospect of any center-left combination getting enough support to form a government. It should get even better for the Prime Minister as the country continues with patriotic celebrations toward its 70th anniversary, likely to be made even juicier with the transfer of the US and Guatemalan embassies to Jerusalem, perhaps with the participation of Donald Trump in the festivities.

Yet the polls also show that a majority of the population thinks Bibi should quit.


The police and prosecutors continue their work. The message from informed commentators is that Bibi has gone over the edge, along with a number of individuals who have been close to him politically. The Prison Authority may have to refurbish and expand the VIP units that had housed former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, former President Moshe Katsav, and some of their colleagues. Those units are designed to keep the white collar elite safe from the general prison population, and to provide protection for the state secrets that they carry in their memories to the slammer.


One Photoshop item making the rounds has Ehud Olmert speaking to Bibi, telling him that he'll get a private cell, and that Sara will be able to visit only once a week.


Or she may have her own accommodation, somewhere else in the realm of the Prison Authority.


But while it may be that Bibi and Sara violated several laws by demanding expensive gifts in exchange for favors given by Bibi, that Bibi acted to enable close associates to get rich at the public's expense, and that Bibi pursued a number of actions in order to obtain for himself and Sara better treatment from media outlets, there are Israelis who view it all as insignificant compared to what they see Bibi contributing to their safety and welfare. Some go beyond the conclusion of triviality to accuse the media, police and prosecutors of an insidious leftist campaign to fabricate a case against the individual chosen by the voters to lead the country.


A new revelation, said to come from the latest of the close aides to make a deal with the prosecutor, is that Bibi shared state secrets with his wife and son, and gave in to their influence on a matter concerned with national defense.


His supporters say that a Prime Minister is entitled to seek informal guidance from those he trusts. Critics cite the law about state secrets, as well as question the wisdom of relying on Sara and/or Yair. Both have been recorded in comments and behaving suggesting that they are neither stable nor reliable sources of advice.


The Legal Adviser to the Government (Attorney General) makes the key decisions that produce investigations and indictments of public officials, and he has said that the police and prosecutors will continue their work even if there is an election campaign. 


An outsider can wonder at the time it is taking for officials to decide that they have enough to bring a case to court. Yet the matters under investigation are numerous, complex, and intertwined. Those being investigated have access to the country's best and most expensive attorneys. Absolute proof may be elusive, and it may come down to who is more persuasive in claiming that one or another of the accused deserves indictment and then a verdict of guilty.


Israeli law requires a government official to resign in the case of a criminal indictment, with the exception of the Prime Minister. The exclusion is meant to protect the Prime Minister from an easy ouster by political opponents. The holder of the office can only be forced to resign by the conclusion of judicial proceedings.


Bibi's supporters, including Likudniks and MKs of coalition partners who see Bibi's political skills as their meal ticket, have said that he can continue in office until a final verdict. If this means the decision of a court that has heard all the evidence and then a higher court's consideration of appeals, we may be talking about several years.


Once Prime Minister Olmert was indicted, political allies turned against him and produced a resignation. The same may occur in Bibi's case. Or it may not. And we're not close to an indictment.


Comments welcome


Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem


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