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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud members in December 24th, 2018.(Photo by: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
No, Haredi draft bill did not cause the elections
By GIL HOFFMAN
12/24/2018
“Do you expect your legal investigations to be frozen during the election,” Netanyahu was asked.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looked giddy about the election he had just initiated at Monday’s meeting of his Knesset Likud faction.

In a rare move for a Likud faction meeting, Netanyahu took questions from reporters, including one in English. Despite his notoriously adversarial relationship with the press, he answered all the questions willingly except for one, which was asked twice.

“Do you expect your legal investigations to be frozen during the election?” Netanyahu was asked.

He snapped back: “I don’t expect anything.”

That answer was an important reminder of the context of these elections. With all due respect to the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) enlistment bill, that is not why the Knesset is going to be dispersed this week.

Netanyahu could have waited for the January 15 Supreme Court deadline to pass the bill, and then just continued, business as usual. Technically, he would have had a legal obligation to draft all yeshiva students en masse, and as defense minister, he could have gotten away with not enforcing the law.

But this election is not taking place because of the draft but because of the graft – namely, the three criminal investigations hovering over Netanyahu’s head.

The Jerusalem Post and other media outlets featured headlines over the weekend that, thanks to the expedited timetable leaked by Att.-Gen. Avichai Mandelblit’s office, his likely recommendation to indict Netanyahu would take place before the race.

That means that thanks to more leaks, all the voters would know when they vote what Netanyahu did in the Bezeq-Walla, newspaper collusion and expensive gift affairs.

Can it be a coincidence that after two years of overcoming threats to his coalition, Netanyahu initiated an election the day after Mandelblit started working on his case?

There was one other legal case that bothered Netanyahu. Thanks to a petition by Zionist Union MK Lea Fadida, the prime minister had to tell the Supreme Court by Tuesday why he was holding so many portfolios.

And now, thanks to the Knesset being dispersed this week, Netanyahu can if he chooses continue to hold on to the Defense, Foreign Affairs and Health portfolios until the next government is sworn in. The tough choice he would have had to make on a new foreign minister next month can now be forgotten.

Netanyahu can remain prime minister, defense minister, foreign minister, health minister, Likud leader and the ordinary citizen before the law fighting multiple criminal probes – and no judge, politician or reporter can stop him.

So it’s no wonder that Netanyahu was in such a good mood on Monday.
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