“How the mighty have fallen!” — The Saga of Benjamin Netanyahu - 29
This next week may prove to be historic. The deal that we reported on yesterday—about Netanyahu accepting a plea deal that will end his political career—is expected to be signed. Late August 2020, I was driving to a meeting in Netanya, on Israel’s central coast. I was praying and thinking about the longest-serving prime minister in modern Israel’s short history. Suddenly, I sensed the Holy Spirit speak to me.
I rarely ask God questions—particularly about things that I don’t really need to know. But I heard in prayer something akin to, “I am moving on from Benjamin Netanyahu. He has begun to put his own affairs and his family ahead of the state’s.” This was accompanied by a strong witness in my spirit.
Not long after that, I wrote down that if this was a word from God, it would happen within 6 to 9 months. It was just about nine months later the most unlikely government in the history of Israel was formed with a razor-thin margin of a 61-seat majority, bringing together several right-wing parties with two center parties and two from the left—and one Islamist party! And even that was nearly torpedoed when we found ourselves in a “flash” war with Hamas. Everyone pulled out. But then the war ended, and despite the fact that all the Israeli pundits said it was too late, at the 11th hour, with no time to spare, a new government was formed.
This put Netanyahu in an unfamiliar place—as leader of the opposition. Had he stepped aside as leader of his own party, Likud would have maintained control of the Knesset. Many other parties were very willing to work with a Netanyahu-less Likud. But these right-wing leaders had lost trust in Netanyahu’s word. Bibi had burned too many bridges. He had gone back on too many promises and stabbed too many loyal foot soldiers in the back when they sought a political career of their own.
By not letting someone else lead Likud (and thus lose the Knesset), he infuriated many in his own party. He is now attacking and seeking to discredit anyone who might consider challenging him for leader of the Likud party. His circle of confidants is getting smaller.
The plea bargain that has been presented to him means that the 72-year-old crafty politician must take a seven-year break from politics. It is unlikely that he would return to political life at 79 or 80.
The plea deal is connected to several charges of corruption and bribery. While many of his supporters, even friends of mine, have said they are trumped up, this writer has looked at the evidence, and it seems pretty solid. The most serious of the charges, in my opinion, is that, as communication minister, he made favorable conditions for the owner of a news outlet that profited the man some $500 million. This was in exchange, allegedly, for favorable media coverage of Netanyahu and his family. Several credible witnesses have said they were shut down from reporting on Netanyahu because of this deal. The evidence is compelling.
While Netanyahu had previously said he was not interested in a plea bargain, compelling testimony against him has changed his view.
“Netanyahu started considering a plea deal after receiving a legal assessment that key state’s witness Nir Hefetz’s recent testimony was effective for the prosecution’s case, and amid concerns that the upcoming testimony of another state’s witness, Shlomo Filber, could also be damaging” —Times of Israel
What is so interesting about this is that it appears that Netanyahu broke the law in a very serious way. And yet our attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, is willing to let Bibi get off with a slap on the wrist. To remove Netanyahu from politics, Mandelblit is willing to make massive concessions, according to Haaretz. He feels it is more in the public interest for Bibi to be out of politics than go to jail.
The younger Netanyahu was a very effective premier. But the older Bibi acted more like an entitled king than a concerned leader. His family was the royal family. His son Yair has become a Donald Trump Junior figure, but without any business success. Yair has embarrassed his family on many occasions with his words and actions.
Netanyahu acted as if Israel was a “start-up,” and he was the main investor. And since he’s been in the opposition, he’s been nothing less than childish in his attacks against the current government. In a word, it has been sad to watch. He has wasted no time in making videos in both English and Hebrew mocking the government. Ironically, some of the very policies that he’s mocking are ones that he had supported. It’s no longer about what is good for the country; it’s about regaining power.
Bibi still has his voice. He is still the most popular politician within Likud. He may still be the most popular politician in the country. But in a country with 12 to 16 parties at any given time, Being the most popular could mean that only 25% see you that way. It is not enough to maintain power. Maintaining power in a parliamentary system is about building coalitions. Relationships are important. And sadly, since 1996, when Netanyahu first served as prime minister, there is a long list of broken relationships in the wake of his reign. Despite being popular with the people in Likud, even those closest to him are starting to challenge him, like Yuli Edelstein and Israeli Katz.
I remember when in 1990, Elana and I were sitting in bed watching CNN, as the war was raging between Iraq and Kuwait. Every night they interviewed this young, handsome, and articulate Israeli ambassador to the UN. His name was Benjamin Netanyahu, and clearly, he had a bright future. Well, the curtain is not closed, and he may have a vibrant post-politics career, it would appear his days as prime minister have come to an end.