By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –
Israeli police have recommended that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu be indicted for corruption. The recommendation now goes to attorney general Avichai Mandelblit, who may or may not decide to act on it. Although 60% of Israelis in polling have said they wanted Netanyahu to step down if the police made this recommendation, he is refusing to leave and will fight the cases from office.
The police instanced two cases, one in which Netanyahu allegedly accepted a couple hundred thousand dollars in bribes from an Australian businessmen in return for favorable treatment of his business and attempting to get him a US visa. (Whether Netanyahu regularly got people visas should be looked into as a form of corruption on the US side).
In the other case, Netanyahu is alleged to have offered a deal to Arnon Mozes, the publisher of Israel’s biggest-circulation newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth. Netanyahu supporter and shady casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson had begun a free pro-Netanyahu newspaper, Yisrael Ha-Yom, and it obviously was eating into the profits of the other newspapers in the country. (How this is not illegal as “dumping” baffles me.) Netanyahu allegedly told Mozes that he could persuade Adelson to reduce the publication run of Yisrael Ha-Yom, which would help his bottom line. In return, Mozes should report more favorably on Netanyahu.
In my view it is the second case that is explosive. In the first one Netanyahu got champagne and cigars. But the second case shows how far right wing nationalist politics is intertwined with shady businesses like casino-owning and their ability, having bilked millions of poor and working people out of their money, to turn around and buy influential press organs to convince the latter to vote for the people who screwed them over. (Although Netanyahu is notorious in the West for having reneged on the Oslo Accords and having denied Palestinians their rights, within Israel he has also led an assault on the old socialist welfare state, throwing workers under the bus and diverting money to the billionaire class.) It is a perfect vicious circle.
Sheldon Adelson, who allegedly recouped his fortune at one point by bribing members of the Chinese Communist Party to let him operate in Macao, has the dubious distinction of having ruined both the United States and Israel by pushing, repectively, Netanyahu and Trump. Adelson sidelined New Jersey governor Chris Christie in the 2016 Republican primary for having referred to Gaza and the West Bank as “Occupied Territories,” which they self-evidently are. In Adelson’s warped world, there are and never have been any Palestinians and random Arabs have no business in his Israel.
Are there parallels between Netanyahu’s situation and Trump’s?
Both came to power in part through the backing of billionaires and their fake news organs such as Fox Cable News for Trump and Yisrael Ha-Yom for Netanyahu.
Both men are being investigated for corruption.
Both have responded by denigrating law enforcement. Netanyahu attacked the police, Trump the FBI.
Both have tried to normalize corruption. Netanyahu dismissed the hundreds of thousands of dollars he received as a few gifts among friends. Trump asks his audience if they don’t want him to make money for his businesses.
And in the case of both men, if they are removed from office for corruption, they will be succeeded by political figures even farther to their right and more dangerous to the world.