Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a weekly cabinet meeting on February 4, 2018..
(photo credit: EMIL SALMAN/POOL)
For months, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made it his mantra that “there will be nothing, because there is nothing.”
Israeli police recommend bribery charges against Netanyahu, February 13, 2018 (Reuters)
But a law that helped Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan make NIS 750,000 and Australian billionaire James Packer make NIS 1 million is a lot more than nothing. It means police believe he broke the law repeatedly, and over an extended period.
It is far more than the NIS 500,000 that former prime minister Ehud Olmert was convicted for receiving in the Holyland Affair real estate corruption case, which led to him serving 16 months of a 27-month prison sentence.
And Netanyahu did not just say there would be less than Olmert. He set the bar high by saying that there would be nothing.
So now that we know there was something, does that mean there will also be something when it comes to ousting Netanyahu politically? That remains to be seen.
We already know that unlike with Olmert, who was forced out by his political partners Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak when police recommendations were issued, Netanyahu’s partners will at least wait for the decision by Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit. But until then, the main judge will end up being the Israeli public.
If they demand Netanyahu be ousted, the pressure could be overwhelming.
If the public agrees with Netanyahu that the police recommendations are irrelevant, he could easily remain in power into 2019.
Netanyahu’s announcement leaked from Monday’s closed-door Likud faction meeting about the US cooperating with him on applying Israeli law to settlements in Judea and Samaria made big news. The announcement he made when the cameras were still there at the beginning of the meeting appeared far less exciting.
The prime minister praised the public for “uniting in a moment when they were being tested” over the weekend due to the security situation in the North. He added that “the real strength of Israel comes from its citizens.”
He said that if he passed the 2019 state budget and the public remained strong, the government would last until the end of 2019.
Now that the police recommendations to indict Netanyahu for bribery in two cases have been published, one can understand why that bland statement matters.
He also made a point of speaking directly to the Israeli public following the publication of the recommendations Tuesday night.
Until Mandelblit makes his final decision on whether to indict Netanyahu, the ball is in the court of public opinion.
The public will decide whether or not the mantra is right and – when it comes to Netanyahu’s future – whether there will be anything.