As the noose tightens around Netanyahu
Hebrew media review

As the noose tightens around Netanyahu

The latest corruption investigations into the PM see even a pro-Netanyahu daily headlining on his expected imminent indictment

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Ministers Office in Jerusalem, September 3, 2017. (Marc Israel 
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Ministers Office in Jerusalem, September 3, 2017. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)

The latest developments of the investigations into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family have the Hebrew-language media buzzing with what the future holds for the Israeli leader and his party.

Israel Hayom, the daily that is embroiled in one of the investigations, continues its recent deviation from a previously staunchly pro-Netanyahu stance, blaringly indicating on its front page that the prime minister will likely soon be indicted for corruption. “Investigators: Strong evidence of bribery in Case 1000” screams its main headline.

The free daily reports that Lahav 433 investigators have enough evidence to charge the prime minister on fraud, breach of trust and bribery charges in that case, which revolves around alleged illicit gifts received by the prime minister and his wife. According to the paper, police investigators have rejected Netanyahu’s claims that the hundreds of thousands of shekels worth of cigars and champagne gifted to his family by Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan were in the context of their longtime friendship.

Other than one biting cartoon, the paper’s opinion pages are oddly silent about the reported mounting evidence against Netanyahu and his wife, Sara.

Israel Hayom features one illustration by Shlomo Cohen depicting Lahav 433 investigators as fishermen hauling in nets full of “evidence,” while one officer tells the other: “The water is so murky, wherever we cast a net, we’ll catch something!”

Though the latest developments in the Netanyahu investigation don’t make the front page of Yedioth Ahronoth, it does consume the coverage inside Thursday’s edition.

Yedioth columnist Ariella Ringler-Hoffman takes the increasingly pervasive scandals dogging the Netanyahu government as an indication of a larger problem within Israel’s culture and political establishment.

Arnon Milchan, left, and Benjamin Netanyahu on March 28, 2005. (Flash90)

Ringler-Hoffman argues that corruption has “become the norm,” and that Israelis have become so desensitized to it that even scandals rocking the highest levels of government, such as the one surrounding Netanyahus, doesn’t seem to spark public outrage.

“There are those who say — and this is the discouraging part — that when the storm subsides and the guilty parties will be metaphorically hung in the town square, that nothing will change,” she writes. “Because wherever there’s money, there will be someone looking to line their pockets.”

“The sad fact is that the government, like the driver of a car, will continue on their way even when the warning lights come on as long as the vehicle is still moving,” Ringler-Hoffman says. “Its a matter of culture.”

The Haaretz daily leads its Thursday paper with a different corruption scandal hounding the first family. Earlier this week it was reported that Attornet General Avichai Mandelblit is poised to indict Sara Netanyahu for misusing over $110,000 in state funds earmarked for the Prime Minister’s Residence.

The left-wing daily reports that Lahav 433 investigators uncovered significant discrepancies in the testimonies of employees at the Prime Minister’s Residence during their questioning this week.

Haaretz quotes an unnamed police source who calls the differing statements “troubling,” and that the Justice Department will “thoroughly examine the differences and decide whether to investigate them.”

For a change, Haaretz columnists are taking a break from analyzing prime minister, and the post-Netanyahu era in Israel.

Veteran columnist Dan Margalit does, however, take the Likud party to task for allowing Netanyahu and his various scandals to “threaten the state and party in an unprecedented way.”

“A party that wishes to continue being the leading party in the State of Israel must force Netanyahu to resign… and allow someone else to serve as prime minister for the remaining two years of their government.”

He calls the Likud’s enabling of Netanyahu a “disgrace” and says the damage done by senior members of the ruling party is “unforgivable.”

A cartoon by Amos Biderman shows the Netanyahus watching the nightly news in dismay surrounded by bottles of cigars and champagne, exclaiming that “all we need now is for the birds to turn on us.”

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