The latest development in the ongoing investigations into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has Israel’s Hebrew print media buzzing with news of a likely corruption indictment against the premier, and the possible downfall of King Bibi.
Yedioth Ahronoth devotes its entire front page to the “breakthrough in the Bibi cases,” declaring that Ari Harow — Netanyahu’s former chief of staff who on Friday turned state’s witness against his former boss — would “ultimately be his downfall.”
Its columnists, however, strike a more cautious tone, warning that a criminal indictment does not necessarily mean early elections in Israel.
Yedioth’s chief columnist Ben Dror Yemini wastes no time in calling on Netanyahu to immediately resign for the sake of the country.
“The Israeli people need a full time prime minister. How can important decisions be made when he’s not even around? The people’s best interest trumps the prime minister’s best interest,” he writes.
Yemini goes on to castigate the Likud leadership for its relative silence on the matter in recent weeks, noting that it was the same party whose MKs vocally demanded former prime minister Ehud Olmert resign over lesser crimes.
“If there is even a shred of intellectual integrity that remains among senior Likud members, then they need to say [to Netanyahu] ‘please take some time off, we hope you emerge from this clean, but because of everything that we’ve said in the past (and that includes you), we must tell you the same.’”
Columnist Yoav Fromer also excoriates the Likud party in his column for enabling the “Israeli Nixon.” Though he notes that removing a sitting prime minister from power would be unprecedented for a young democracy like Israel’s, it represents an important process that would help restore the public’s trust in their government.
“The burning question for Israelis isn’t if or when it will happen, it’s how: How will Netanyahu’s ouster from power unfold?”
Fromer argues that during his 11 years in power Netanyahu has weakened the judiciary and contributed to partisan divides in Israel, and says now Likud must choose country over party.
“The responsibly of preserving Israel’s democracy the day after Netanyahu rests on the shoulders of Likud,” he writes. “Meanwhile, they’ve remained silent.
“Let’s hope that when faced with decisions regarding the future of the country… they will do the right thing,” he says, adding that “it might just save the country.”
Yedioth’s Sima Kadmon notes that indicting Netanyahu could be years away, and that in the meantime, it’s not likely he will resign willingly.
“Resign? That’s hilarious,” she writes. “Unless he goes through some metamorphosis overnight, he’s not going anywhere. From what we know about him and his family, they’ll have to be pushed out of [the Prime Minister’s Residence] with a bulldozer.”
“So breathe deep. We have many long months ahead of us before we close in on a courtroom,” Kadmon says.
Meanwhile, Sunday’s free Israel Hayom daily reports Harow’s new role much less dramatically, appearing to return to its longtime support of Netanyahu, despite a brief abandonment last month.
On its front page, the tabloid prominently features Netanyahu’s defense, not the actual news of the latest development in the case. And an op-ed by Mati Tuchfeld on page 2 downplays the talk of a possible indictment against the prime minister as media hype.
“The agenda against the prime minister is seen in the headlines morning, noon and night,” he writes. “The sole purpose, it appears, is to bring about his downfall.”
“Just like [during the 2015 elections], today commentators and pundits are declaring with one voice that Netanyahu will be taken out. Both politically and criminally.”
Columnist Lior Jacoby also minimizes reports Harow could lead prosecutors to file a criminal indictment, saying the former Netanyahu confidant may not be the smoking gun he is being made out to be in the media.
“The advantages of recruiting a state’s witness are clear, but state witnesses don’t always deliver the goods in terms of securing a conviction in court,” he writes, listing a handful of cases in which state witnesses failed to deliver damning evidence during trial.
As expected, Haaretz has plenty to say about the possible indictment and the ramifications of Netanyahu’s possible ouster.
Its front page features no fewer than six op-eds on the Harow development, driving home the gravity of Netanyahu’s legal situation to its readers.
Columnist Ravit Hecht warns Israelis against eulogizing Netanyahu too soon, saying his political shrewdness and a loyal political base could see him remain in power.
“The Likud base unnaturally worships Netanyahu in a way that exceeds the traditional right-wing tradition to follow the leader,” Hecht writes. “Most Likud activists see Netanyahu as above democracy, above the rule of law and therefore, above the state itself.”
Gideon Levy says Netanyahu’s fall from power won’t change the political landscape, and Israel’s problems will remain with or without Netanyahu.
“It’s intoxicating to think that the person who replaces Netanyahu will be better than Netanyahu, that the next prime minister will bring hope,” Levy writes. “That the years of right-wing, nationalist and religious governments are over, that whoever leads instead of him, even from the right wing, is preferable.”
He predicts that Netanyahu will be forced to resign over the affair, but laments the fact that the nationalist, pro-settlement and right-wing ministers the prime appointed during his tenure are in government to stay.
“Only a revolution in thinking will generate some kind of change. But for now, a revolution like this has no one to lead it, with or without Netanyahu,” he says. “Netanyahu is going, and Israel is staying the way it was.”