Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
As police put the final touches on their recommendations to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on charges of breach of trust, fraud and bribery, the politicians in opposition parties are ready to pounce on him.
The heads of parties in Netanyahu’s coalition are preparing carefully worded statements about respecting the police, but remaining in the government, while waiting for the decision of Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit on whether to indict the prime minister.
In the Likud, politicians must be even more careful, especially those who have declared themselves potential successors to Netanyahu. There are three future candidates who have said or hinted that they view themselves as contending for the Likud leadership in the post-Netanyahu era: Former interior minister Gideon Sa’ar, Transportation Minister Israel Katz and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.
They stress that they are talking only about the post-Netanyahu era, because they know they cannot challenge the prime minister politically.
Being seen as undermining Netanyahu harms politicians in Likud, and Netanyahu has proven to be vengeful against those who have dared to pose any threat.
The latest proof are the leaks from Netanyahu’s office suggesting he might choose to give a speech at the Independence Day ceremony where the Knesset speaker traditionally gives his most high-profile address. Unsurprisingly, those leaks came soon after a tape surfaced of Edelstein criticizing Netanyahu in a closed-door briefing.
Katz went through similar problems with Netanyahu in the past, when he went too far in flexing his political muscles. Since then, he has become more modest. He even made a point of criticizing anti-Netanyahu graffiti, on his Twitter account this week.
But the most cautious of all the possible successors in Likud is Sa’ar, who is seen as the top candidate in the party to replace Netanyahu, according to the polls. Since his political comeback in April, Sa’ar has successfully walked on eggshells, without cracking any of them.
Unlike the Likud’s Katz, Edelstein and unannounced candidates, Sa’ar meets with journalists all the time.
He speaks on the record. He speaks off the record. There is no difference. No tape recording will surface.
Try getting him to criticize Netanyasaarhu amid all the investigations, and all you will get is that he respects the prime minister and hopes he will emerge unscathed. If the opposite is secretly true, the only journalist he tells is his wife, channel 1 news anchor Geula Even, and she is careful, too.
If anyone with a high profile even suggests on social media that Sa’ar has been at all disrespectful to Netanyahu, there will be requests to amend even the most laconic tweet.
But there are stories from the past that cannot be erased. Stories about Netanyahu’s poor treatment of Sa’ar from many years ago found their way into a new book about Netanyahu by Maariv
columnist Ben Caspit.
As serious as the allegations are, and as heated as the mutual recriminations get between Netanyahu and the police, Sa’ar knows that Netanyahu can still overcome all the probes and remain prime minister for the foreseeable future.
“My patience confuses people,” Sa’ar said when briefing The Jerusalem Post
Don’t be confused. Tiptoeing around Netanyahu’s succession is simply smart politics.