I sraelis could be forgiven if they experienced a bout of déjà vu on Monday, when police grilled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his residence for three hours about allegations that he had received gifts from wealthy businessmen. Mr. Netanyahu’s two predecessors - Ehud Olmert and Ariel Sharon - were also questioned while still in office. Will Mr. Netanyahu be able to stay in power, or will he suffer the same fate as Mr. Olmert, who stood down and is now in prison?
Gideon Levy, a veteran political commentator and journalist for the liberal Israeli daily Haaretz, told The World Weekly “it is very hard to tell” whether Mr. Netanyahu’s career will survive the investigation. Hillel Schenker, co-editor of the Palestine-Israel Journal, said the prime minister’s Likud party is hoping he does because it has no “obvious successor”, but that some coalition members “would be happy” to see Mr. Netanyahu fall.
The prime minister was certainly defiant. “Wait with the celebrations, don't rush," he told Likud parliamentarians before being questioned. "I've said it before and I'll say it once again: there will be nothing because there is nothing." He spoke of “long years of daily persecution against me and my family”.
The investigation reportedly involves a second, lesser known case, which could be “earth-shattering”. According to Haaretz’s Chemi Shalev, it allegedly involves contacts between the prime minister and “a well-known Israeli business figure who had a specific commercial interest in cultivating Netanyahu’s goodwill”.
Whereas large segments of the Israeli media highlighted the corruption allegations, others were more sceptical. Mr. Schenker told The World Weekly that Israel Hayom, which has the largest circulation in the country and is financed by Netanyahu backer Sheldon Adelson, said there was nothing to the charges. He added that the story now dominating the Israeli press was the conviction of a soldier for the manslaughter of a Palestinian assailant.
Reflecting on what the case meant for Israel’s political system, Mr. Levy said: “Israel’s political system is corrupted, but not corrupted enough to avoid investigations and trials against the most powerful”.