Millennium Post

An embattled PM

An embattled PM
For Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who has always symbolised his country's resilience and defiance even against all odds, to be pushed into a corner intrigues and stupefies even his most ardent admirers. Indeed, even at the Munich Security Conference last week, his presence and presentation symbolised Israel's grit and determination. Since the days of Moshe Dayan, the charismatic Commander in the 60s who was the fighting symbol of the then new State of Israel, Netanyahu was hard put on keeping up the legacy. It was a hard act to follow. But, given his own track record since his days in the armed forces, he did not seem to be doing all that bad a job. And, then, came the corruption charges against him. The police started their investigations and have finally zeroed in on him and his wife. Yesh Atid, Chairman Yair Lapid has said that the Prime Minister need not resign over police recommendations but "step aside" for some time in order to fight his legal battles."We don't have to go to elections; they can put in somebody as temporary Prime Minister from Likud, as has been done before until this is resolved," he said. But Netanyahu has angrily rejected accusations, which included accepting nearly $300,000 in gifts from a pair of billionaires. He accused the police, vowed to remain in office and even sought re-election. Added to this is the fact that Lapid, former Finance Minister, is a political rival of the embattled Prime Minister. During similar circumstances a decade ago, Netanyahu, as opposition leader, had urged then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to resign during a police investigation, saying, a leader "sunk up to his neck in interrogations" could not govern properly. But, his political woes have increased when a figure close to him agreed to turn into the state's witness in a case investigating the alleged corrupt dealings between the government and telecom group Bezeq Communications. Ministry head Shlomo Filber, identified by Israeli media as a "confidante" of the Prime Minister, was arrested along with several executives at Bezeq, the country's biggest telecoms group. It is alleged that Walla, a news website owned by the company, gave Netanyahu's government favourable coverage in exchange for regulatory benefits. Netanyahu is not named in the case but is expected to be questioned. All parties deny allegations against them. On Wednesday, Filber had agreed to testify for the state, an added headache for Netanyahu. The potential charges will now be referred to Israel's attorney general's office which will decide whether to bring a prosecution. Citing the intense public scrutiny and the fact that some allies are remaining silent or beginning to desert him, opposition politicians are calling on Netanyahu to resign. The right-wing leader, who previously held the office from 1996-1999 and who has led the country since 2009, has repeatedly called these allegations political "witch hunt". Be that as it may, his fate will now depend on the Attorney General.

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