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Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel's dilemma over PM's future

From BBC - February 13, 2018

During his first tenure as Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu was dubbed "the magician" by the local media because of his uncanny ability to extricate himself from the most difficult of situations - starting with his unexpected victory over Shimon Peres in the 1996 election.

Mr Netanyahu's luck - or expertise - may have run its course. It appears that police investigations into rumours and innuendo about corruption which have been swirling around the Netanyahu family for years are now turning into more solid cases.

There are now four police investigations - two against Mr Netanyahu and his family, two against his inner circle.

Case 1000 accuses Mr Netanyahu and his family of accepting gifts from an array of figures such as the Hollywood entrepreneur, Arnon Milchan and the Australian businessman, James Packer, which were not "of small value and reasonable in context", according to Israeli law.

Mr Netanyahu's wife, Sara, is suspected of accepting 400,000 shekels (81,000; $113,100) and of instituting cordon bleu meals on a regular basis for the family at the PM's residence - a privilege usually reserved for state visitors.

The Israeli press lays most of the blame for this state of affairs at the door of Sara, who - it appears - has been instrumental in pushing for this lifestyle and possesses a reputation for treating employees badly.

Case 2000 involves a deal with the daily Yediot Aharanot to secure better coverage for Mr Netanyahu's policies in exchange for weakening its rival, the hitherto loyal, freebie, Israel Hayom, owned by US businessman Sheldon Adelson.

A taped telephone conversation with Arnon Mozes, Yediot's publisher, and the testimony of Mr Netanyahu's former chief of staff Ari Harow - now a state witness - appear to have turned the tide.

Case 3000 involves Mr Netanyahu's lawyer and cousin, David Shimron, who is being investigated in a case regarding the acquisition of submarines from the German shipbuilder, Thyssen Krupp.

Several suspects have been detained including the former commander of the Israeli Navy. Unofficial lobbying, indirect bribes and senior officials turned state witness are all features of this case.

Case 4000 involves Shlomo Filber, a former head of the Central Committee of Mr Netanyahu's Likud party, who was appointed director-general of the ministry of communications shortly after the 2015 election.

Mr Netanyahu swiftly dismissed the former holder of the post when he proposed a broadband reform. Mr Filber is suspected of supplying insider information to Bezeq, the major telecom company in Israel. He denies this.

Contradicting Zionist values

All this has left a pungent odour rising from the depths - such behaviour is regarded as far removed from the ethos of Israel's founding generation, whether left or right.

Israel's socialist founding father David Ben-Gurion lived in a simple apartment in Kibbutz Sde Boqer in the Negev desert - he paid more attention to his library than to his living conditions.

Another revered Likud prime minister, Menahem Begin, and his wife lived in basic housing near Tel Aviv's seafront.

Significantly, there have also been public demonstrations against corruption by members of Mr Netanyahu's party.

PM in defiant mood

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