It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a leader beset by scandals must be in want of a war (apologies to Jane Austen). Bibi is no different. The beatings of the war drums in Syria are a perfect foil for him as the Israeli attorney general contemplates whether to indict him on any of four separate charges of corruption, bribery, and financial improprieties. In truth, and in any other western society, he’d have long since been indicted and resigned his position. But this isn’t a western society. It’s a scandal-plagued corrupt, quasi-democracy in which almost anything can be bought for a price.
Avihai Mandelblit, the AG, has all four cases sitting in his lap. He could decide to indict at any moment or wait a year from now to decide. My hunch is that the longer he waits, the less likely he will indict. That’s why diversions like the Syria crisis are so useful to Bibi. The AG cannot possibly indict during such a critical period when Israelis believe their nation is under threat. The Israeli prime minister will also extend this period of crisis as long as he can. The attacks against Iranian positions will continue, perhaps even intensify. All according to Bibi’s political needs.
And this sort of war-hucksterism works like a charm. Bibi’s polling numbers have shot through the roof since the last attack in Syria.
The corruption cases have already been stewing for over a year. Mandelblit can wait even longer before deciding. If I were a betting man I’d wager that Mandelblit, who was appointed to his position by Netanyahu after the former served as his cabinet secretary (yes, the fix is in), will refuse to indict. In effect, both the PM and AG will be throwing down the gauntlet and daring the Israeli public to stand against them. The question then becomes: does the nation rise up in rebellion at the cesspool Bibi created. Do they voice their outrage at chosen stooge who offered him the “get out of jail free” card? Or does it stand by quiescently, accepting the inevitable triumph of the elites who run the show.
If we recall the social justice movement of 2011 (known as J14), which brought hundreds of thousands into the streets on behalf of economic justice. It launched with a bang. It stormed the citadels of Israeli power. The titans shook and shivered in their luxury condos in Tel Aviv. But eventually it came to naught. Social inequality is worse than ever in Israel. The poor stay poor and rich grow ever fatter. If this is any indicator, Netanyahu may be able to ride this out. Especially if he can summon yet another security crisis to divert the public’s attention.
But the optimist in me hopes that Israelis will band together and overthrow the titan; and topple his statue as they did Saddam’s in Baghdad.
To be clear, as I’ve written here numerous times, this will not fundamentally alter Israel’s political dynamic, which is dysfunctional, corrupt and incapacitated. The farthest-right, most racist elements control the government now, and will continue to control it after Bibi goes. Of that you may be certain. But at least if Bibi goes, there will be one less of these cretins dipping his hands into the public till to enrich himself at the people’s expense.
There is a certain cynical strain which says: let Bibi stay. Let him conduct the most corrupt government in Israeli history. Eventually, the worse things get the more radical the transformation will be when the time comes. But then I’m drawn up with the realization that there is no telling how bad things will get before they get better. How low can they go? What will it take? Another Srebrenica? A Rwandan genocide?
I’m cheered by the news that Malaysians overthrew their corrupt government and re-elected a former leader, who in turn will free one of his foremost enemies, Anwar Ibrahim. Now the two will govern together. And presumably when this 92-year-old dies, the reins of power will pass to the former hated enemy thrown into prison on trumped-up charges. But will Ibrahim rise to the occasion and govern cleanly and wisely? Or will he fall into the same trap as his former tormentors?
Admittedly, Malaysia has a long history of democratic elections. It has a far more stable society than Israel. It is also far more prosperous and wealth is distributed more evenly among the populace. So Israel faces even more daunting challenges amidst these scandals than Malaysia. Could Israel follow the path of Malaysia and throw the bums out? Or will it revert to status quo ante?