Netanyahu aims to beat Ben-Gurion's record

Netanyahu aims to beat Ben-Gurion's record

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the right-wing Likud party headed by him won the parliamentary elections in Israel. Counting of votes continues, there are still about 5% of the ballots, but the gap between him and the closest rival - the former head of the Israeli General Staff, Beni Ganz, and his Kachol Lavan (Blue and White) center-left bloc - is so significant that there are no doubts on Netanyahu's victory. And if there were, the Prime Minister would refrain from congratulating his colleagues on the "historic victory".

Thus, the President of the State of Israel Reuven Rivlin, after the announcement of the official election results, which is expected on Friday, will entrust Benjamin Netanyahu to form a government. Curiously enough that none of the parties or blocs will apparently receive a ruling majority after the elections. Of the 120 parliamentary mandates, Likud and Kachol Lavan will each receive 35 seats, but due to the passage to the Knesset (parliament) of the 21st convocation, some more right-wing and center-right organizations will increase their representation to 65 seats, while their political opponents will be restricted to 55 places. Thus, Benjamin Netanyahu will receive the right to form a coalition cabinet.

“This is a historic colossal victory,” the prime minister said at Likud’s headquarters, where together with his associates he awaited the interim results of the parliamentary elections. Thus, if nothing out of the ordinary happens, the premiership of Netanyahu (the 5th one, by the way) in the 71 -year history of the State of Israel will be the longest. In the meantime, the record belongs to the founder of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, who served as prime minister for 13.5 years - in 1948-1954.

According to Benjamin Netanyahu, who has held the post of prime minister for ten years, on the one hand, this is pleasant, but on the other, there are more important tasks than to “trumpet the rewriting of political records.” The prime minister said that he had already begun negotiations with the allies on the coalition in the cabinet ministers.

The Ha'aretz newspaper predicts Likud will receive 38 places in the Knesset, and Kachol Lavan - 35. According to the publication, the third place and 8 places will go to the ShAS ultra-religious party, and United Torah Judaism will get 7 mandates. Another 6 places can be received by  Israel Beiteinu party (Our Home Israel), the leader of which, Avigdor Lieberman, is a Soviet emigrant.

However, it may be that Netanyahu’s victory in the parliamentary elections is only half of the battle. And it will be complete only if the prime minister succeeds in  completing the story of prosecution charges of corruption and fraud. They have not yet been filed officially, but the Attorney General of the State of Israel, Avichai Mandelblit, is ready to keep his word and officially charge Benjamin Netanyahu with bribery, fraud and abuse of official position.

In the Israeli press, the criminal cases against the prime minister are called Case 1000, Case 2000 and Case 4000. The first concerns certain gifts from businessmen that Netanyahu allegedly received in 2007–2016. The Case 2000 is about possible collusion between Yediot Aharonot’s owner Arnon Moses and the prime minister. Allegedly, Netanyahu was instigated to press another popular newspaper Israel Hayom in exchange for absolutely positive coverage of his activities on Yediot Aharonot. In the Case 4000, the premiere is charged with lobbying the interests of telecommunications company Bezeq in exchange for informational support for Netanyahu’s activities on the company's website.

The first of the aforementioned series of cases was initiated at the end of 2016. The Jerusalem Post reported that the prosecutor, Avichai Mandelblit, considered it the weakest, and the police recommended to charge the prime minister in February 2018. The investigation was also conducted against Netanyahu’s wife - last summer, she was charged with fraud, because she ordered food at restaurants for Netanyahu’s residence, although a cook was working there thus receiving a salary from the budget.

Netanyahu can be charged between three and 12 months after the parliamentary elections, the Jerusalem Post writes. If Netanyahu wins the election and is convicted, the Israeli Supreme Court can dismiss him. The prime minister regarding the threat of the prosecutor is quite terse, using the common cliché - "witch hunt." His Likud party is convinced that all charges will fall apart as soon as it comes to testifying.

But the situation should not be underestimated. Netanyahu’s main opponent in the recent elections, Beni Ganz, resigned to the defeat at the elections, keeps in mind the probable prosecutor’s attack on the prime minister. Otherwise, his persistent activity after the election is difficult to understand. In the information field, Ganz behaves as if the election campaign continues. In particular, he once again harshly criticized Netanyahu’s statement about his readiness to integrate the Israeli settlements to the West Bank, which allegedly would put an end to the efforts of creating an independent Palestinian state. Ganz recalled these "catchy ideas of the prime minister", calling them completely irresponsible, going against the "peace agreement supported by the globe”, allowing Israel to leave behind the settlements in the West Bank and at the same time ensure control over this territory.

Ganz is convinced that Netanyahu too long occupies  the prime minister’s chair and therefore has lost touch with reality, which leads to "such superficial harsh statements." "We need changes. We need an opportunity to implement these changes. Now is not the appropriate time for extreme measures," Beni Ganz said. Perhaps, supporting the spirit of the election campaign, the politician is counting on a quick replay.

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