Netanyahu Clings to Office While Calling Criminal Charges Against Him a ‘Witch Hunt’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

When former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert came under criminal investigation on bribery charges a decade ago, he took the honorable route and resigned, opening the way for new elections that brought Benjamin Netanyahu to power. Now it’s Netanyahu’s turn: Israel’s attorney general announced Nov. 21 that he plans to indict the sitting prime minister on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. To the detriment of Israel and its democracy, Netanyahu is taking the low road.

Rather than accede to the many calls for him to resign – and a poll showing that a majority of Israelis want him to go – Netanyahu has adopted what might be called, and what probably deliberately is, a Trumpian defense. The charges against him, he claims, are an “attempted coup”; the police investigators and prosecutors who spent years preparing them are guilty of a “witch hunt” and should themselves be investigated.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu staged a public rally in Tel Aviv and bused in supporters to demonstrate against the “coup.” The result was a welcome sign that he may have gone too far: Key leaders of his Likud party declined to attend. One of them, Gideon Saar, has said he will challenge Netanyahu for the party leadership in a primary.

Netanyahu’s intransigence is particularly worrying because it is the primary reason Israeli politicians have been unable to form a government following elections in April and again in September. Neither the Likud’s right-wing alliance nor its center-left opposition commands a majority in the Knesset. The centrist Blue and White party, which holds the most seats, says it will not form an alliance with Likud unless Netanyahu agrees to give up the prime minister’s post, at least while his criminal case plays out.

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Source: Greenwich Time