The Washington Post wrote that Israel “might have to have a do-over” to enable the Government to lift itself out of its current predicament. This is the first logical step many politicians governing in a coalition take to secure a mandate for their programme. Regardless of the outcome of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s talks with coalition partners to form a new government, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that he cannot call a fresh election mid-September if he wants to escape prison.
Many analysts anticipate that this is the date the Prime Minister will hold another vote.
Netanyahu is facing three criminal charges against him. The Israeli Attorney General, Avichai Mandelblit, announced in February that he would be facing criminal charges, two months before the general election. Oliver Holmes of The Guardian suggested that the charges would have threatened the Prime Minister’s chances of getting re-elected, but during the April election, his centre-right Likud Party won 35 out of the 120 seats in the Knesset (Israeli Parliament). Despite securing a record fifth term in office and earning the title as the longest-serving prime minister in Israeli history, he has been accused of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. If convicted of bribery, he could face up to ten years in prison and a maximum three-year term for fraud and breach of trust.
Case 1,000 involves allegations of receiving gifts. These include expensive cigars, pink champagne and jewellery. International billionaires bought these for him in exchange for favours. In Case 2,000, the Prime Minister is accused of collaborating with the nation’s best-selling newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, to damage its competition in exchange for favourable coverage.
Case 4,000, deemed as the third and most serious case, involves allegations that Netanyahu told the Israeli telecom supplier Bezeq that he would provide them with incentives in exchange for positive reports on Walla, an online website Bezeq owns. This is the first time that a prime minister could be charged, and the allegations are harming Netanyahu’s chances of forming a coalition in these complex negotiations.
Channel 13 News reported that Netanyahu’s officials have informed him that another vote would severely complicate his legal situation. The 22nd Knesset that would be formed as a result of these circumstances would be in a race against time to authorise legislation providing Netanyahu with immunity before his pre-indictment hearing. This is likely to be held on 2nd or 3rd October.
A special Knesset committee has authorised a bill to dissolve parliament, preparing the legislation for a second and final vote before the 11.59pm deadline on Wednesday 28th May to form a coalition. If Netanyahu is serious about avoiding prosecution, he must reach a successful conclusion with the Union of Right-Wing Parties. A senior Likud official official told Channel 13 that if the Prime Minister can form a coalition before the Wednesday deadline, he will have no choice but to surrender to the Union of Right-Wing Parties’ demand to make their number two, Bezalel Smotrich, Justice Minister. Even though Netanyahu favours Likud’s Yariv Lavin for Justice Minister, the official Channel 13 communicated with speculated that there will not be an opportunity for the Prime Minister to wait for Levin to occupy the position.
Netanyahu maintains his innocence. But if he is serious about avoiding elections to further complicate his legal situation and is truly innocent of the charges against him, his only choice is to surrender to the Union of Right-Wing Parties’ request. That way he has enough time to ensure the Knesset provides him with immunity before his hearing. At this rate, Netanyahu’s historic term is looking increasingly short-lived.