It may take additional months or even years to deal with the allegations about the Prime Minister, but more of Israel's politicians are sharpening their knives. And some of those at the grindstone are close enough to the big man for him to smell the dust.
President Rueven (Ruvi) Rivlin opened the Winter term of Knesset with a thinly veiled speech widely viewed as a scathing attack on Netanyahu's corruption. One of Likud's coalition partners signaled lack of support for a Likud effort to protect the Prime Minister from a police investigation. And the man formerly close to the Prime Minister, put by him in the key position as Legal Adviser to the Government, expressed his strong opposition to the same measure.
When the proposal seemed all but dead, the Prime Minister proclaimed that he did not want any legislated protection from investigations against him.
Commentators noted that he had not stopped party colleagues from yet another effort to enact some kind of protection for him.
We'll continue with our good lives, despite the tensions. There's lots more to provide work for Bibi, other politicians, governmental professionals, and commentators.
The Fatah-Hamas deal, Iran, Hezbollah, Syrians, Russians, and Americans continue to worry, excite, and/or provide hope.
Donald Trump is doing his part to amuse, confuse, and worry us.
The Bibi and Donald problems differ greatly in detail. One seems politically skilled, and maybe good as a policymaker for his country, but personally corrupt. His American counterpart seems inexperienced, unskilled, and dangerous.
Bibi's fitness appears in the experience acquired in a series of senior governmental positions since he was Ambassador to the United Nations in 1984. Prior to that he served in an elite unit of the IDF, with combat experience. He is close to being the longest serving Prime Minister in Israel's history.
There are heated disputes about what Bibi has done, and failed to do. His story is confused by contrasts between his shrill rhetoric in favor of settlers and combating Palestinian terror, and a moderate record in what he has actually supported on those and other issues. Opponents to the right say that he is afraid to act. Those on the left accuse him of overlooking opportunities for reaching an accord with Palestinians. With respect to domestic policy, left of center critics see him as not doing enough for the country's unfortunate, or assuring decent housing at reasonable prices for young couples.
Many in the middle express confusion about the real Netanyahu, even while they may concede that he has presided over the country in a way to advance the economy and keep it out of serious warfare.
Bibi's most serious problems stem from his appetites and those of his wife and older son.
There's been another complaint by a former employee of the Prime Minister's residence. She claims bizarre treatment from Sara, and the police may be taking seriously allegations of something criminal. Bibi is countering with the Hebrew equivalent of "Fake news."
Perhaps none should be condemned until proven guilty and passing through the judicial appeals permitted. However, its not hard interpreting several months of media reports, now buffered by comments from the country's President and the men at the heads of the police and prosecuting agency, as indicating a high level of stink.
It won't help the Prime Minister that his most prominent spokesman in the Knesset, here called a "bulldozer," MK David Bitan, is now under police inquiry concerned with charges of bribery while serving as deputy mayor of a Tel Aviv suburb. So far Bibi isn't connected with that story, but he's closely identified with Bitan.
Donald is, from an Israeli perspective, an even greater mystery and more potential danger. Perhaps it's a case of the devil you know . . .
His election isn't much of a mystery, even if the Russians had a hand in it. Not only does his behavior appeal to a substantial slice of the American population, but his opponent qualified for the title of loser. How else to describe someone who let the heart of her party's traditional constituency, i.e., the White working class, go over to her opponent?
The mystery is not in Trump's inexperience and unsuitability for high office. Those traits are even more clear than the explanation of his victory in the election. The greatest uncertainty is with the question of his danger via what he can trigger from the equally questionable people in North Korea and Iran.
Are those highly armed extremists rational enough to ignore Trump's comments and tweets that are easy to perceive as threats and insults? And can Trump's care providers in and near the White House manage to keep him from anything more tangible than extemporaneous verbiage?
Even Israelis who may be breathing easier under his comments suggesting disinterest in Palestine and and criticism with respect to Palestinians, ought to worry about a strange man whose responsibilities touch everything around us.
Bibi may be gone before Trump. It's easier to get rid of a Prime Minister than a President, even one termed a "moron" by his Secretary of State. The history of the two countries suggest that Bibi has a better chance of serving time in prison than Trump, but that'll take a lot longer than his loss of office. There seems a reasonable probability of his indictment. The law requires every official to resign at the point of indictment, except for the Prime Minister. However, such an event will escalate his political problems, and the record of Ehud Olmert suggests that an indicted Prime Minister may not be able to hold back the loss of support within his party and among other parties in his coalition.
A religious friend has provided me with a Rabbinical commentary, focused on Proverbs 25:2, dealing with the presumption of honor that should attach to a national leader. However, the commentary proceeds in Judaic fashion, dealing with a bit of this and a bit of that, and seems to conclude that the respect need not be unlimited.
The five years that transpired between Olmert's indictment and his incarceration reflects Judaic dithering about truth and justice.
Bibi's soap opera has a while to play itself out.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem