The political turmoil in the Middle East deepened on Thursday with the announcement that the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, will be indicted in three corruption cases. This at once undermines Tel-Aviv’s credibility in negotiations with Palestine, indeed a volatile swathe of the world. It can reasonably be presumed that his prospects in the Israeli general election ~ due in another six weeks ~ have been severely damaged even before the first vote is cast. And unmistakable was his sense of utter desperation in his televised statement that “this entire house of cards will collapse”. There is something fundamentally wrong if Israel has to be referred to by its head of government as a “house of cards” several decades after its creation. The attorney-general, Avichai Mandelblit, has signalled his intent to prosecute the Prime Minister with criminal wrongdoing in all the cases against him, most importantly the accusations of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. As fish rots from the head, it can well be reckoned that the government itself is under a cloud in the wider canvas. The announcement renders Netanyahu’s political future direly uncertain though under Israeli law the Prime Minister can defend himself in a pre-trial hearing before the charges are formally filed in court. In his immediate response, Netanyahu has offered a feeble defence of an ugly truth. As Israel’s second-longest serving premier who runs the most right-wing government in its history, Netanyahu has pledged not to resign if indicted. He has warned that the legal case against him was a political ploy by leftist opponents “just to topple the right wing and raise the left to the premiership. There is no other explanation.” He has skirted the allegations per se by projecting the charges as the outcome of pre-election inter-party bickering. Demanding a live TV showdown with his accusers, he has binned the accusations as “lies and a blood libel”.
Obliquely, he has hinted at a change of guard as dramatic as ideological should the Left be able to effect a psephological swing. Netanyahu’s prospects are ever so uncertain with several key allies of the Prime Minister letting it be known that they will not support him if the attorney-general goes forward with the indictment which has already been resonant in the echo chambers of Moscow and Washington. To drum up international support, Netanyahu has, immediately after the attorney-general’s announcement, met President Vladimir Putin to prepare for the fallout. And concordant with his customary support to the fallen angel, as it were, Donald Trump has promptly advanced a certificate ~ “I just think he’s been a great Prime Minister and I don’t know about his difficulty. He’s tough, he’s smart, he’s strong.” However impressive the personality traits, Benjamin Netanyahu will have to accept the reality, i.e. he has been helming Israel even as he wallows in the mire of corruption. The voice of Israel in the Middle East will be less than robust as the Prime Minister steps into the dock.