Magazine article Newsweek

Tel Aviv Diary: Netanyahu Is Flailing, So He's Bringing out the Big Guns-Trump and Racism / Opinion; Netanyahu Should Have Cruised to Victory, but the Unexpected Popularity of His Chief Rival and Ominous Noises from the Prosecution Say Otherwise

Magazine article Newsweek

Tel Aviv Diary: Netanyahu Is Flailing, So He's Bringing out the Big Guns-Trump and Racism / Opinion; Netanyahu Should Have Cruised to Victory, but the Unexpected Popularity of His Chief Rival and Ominous Noises from the Prosecution Say Otherwise

Article excerpt

Byline: Marc Schulman

Under normal circumstances, the re-election of Benjamin Netanyahu to yet another term as Prime Minister would be a no-brainer. The Israeli economy is humming on all four cylinders; unemployment is singularly low; and over the past 15 years, Israel has become one of the world's leading technology powerhouses. More than three hundred fifty multinationals operate research facilities in the country, along with over 4,000 startups (and counting) who continue to chase the next dream, the majority of them well-funded by myriads of local and international venture funds. During the recent Cybertech Conference, I heard Netanyahu brilliantly explain how combining Israel's military capabilities in the areas of cyber and technology with a highly educated work force have transformed the Israeli economy. Beyond the economy, it should be noted that the security situation in the country these past few years has been remarkably quiet -- at least by Israeli standards.And far from becoming a pariah, Israel has diplomatic relations with with more countries than ever before. Despite the long list of national accolades, Netanyahu may not be sleeping soundly in the Prime Minister's residence. Last week, Netanyahu's Likud party held their primaries. Although the Prime Minister remains as popular as ever, when party members voted, they paid almost no attention to Netanyahu's wishes. They propelledformer Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, close to the top of the list, despite excoriations from Netnayahu, who sees Sa'ar as an arch-rival. This could only leave a lingering whiff in the air that the Netanyahu era was coming to a close. Why? Perhaps because for the first time since Netanyahu ran and lost against Ehud Barak in 1998, there is an opponent Israelis feel is just as equipped to be Prime Minister as he is former chief of staff Benny Gantz. Even more important is the realization that the Israeli justice system is closing in on the Prime Minister. It has been a year since the police made their initial recommendation that Netanyahu be indicted. Since then, police have recommended Netanyahu be indicted in two additional cases, and the Office of State's Prosecutor has agreed with the police and turned over the final decision to the Attorney General. When it became clear an indictment would be handed down, Netanyahu tried to delay the decision by calling for the early election. However, the AG has moved quickly and has indicated he will soon make his announcement -- despite a plea by Netanyahu's lawyers that the announcement not be made before I Israelis go to the poll. Still, under Israeli law, before a public official is indicted, that official has the right to respond to the allegations, before being formally charged. This process can take six months to one year. As things stand, when Israelis go to the polls on April 9th, Netanyahu will not officially be under indictment - but he will certainly be under a cloud. …

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