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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

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Israeli prime minister finally facing corruption, bribery charges


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Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been formally charged with corruption and accepting bribes for political favors. The charges were a long time coming, with the original investigations beginning last summer.

The charges ranged from accepting champagne, cigars, trips and other gifts amounting to one million shekels (roughly $280,000) for political favors. Among those who have been implicated are media moguls and businessmen James Packer, Arnon Mozes and Arnon Milchan.

That he is being charged is far from surprising. What is surprising is that his tenure has included indiscriminate bombing raids and a decade-long blockade of Gaza, violations of international law, massive deportations of African refugees, imprisonment of Palestinian children and countless human-rights violations against Palestinians.

Predictably, Netanyahu denied all the charges and is attempting to rally his base, the Likud Party. However, if Netanyahu wants to avoid imprisonment from similar charges like former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, then he will be forced to put up a public relations fight.

Predictably, Netanyahu has denied all the charges and is attempting to rally his base, the Likud Party. However, if Netanyahu wants to avoid imprisonment from similar charges like former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, then he’ll be forced to put up a public-relations fight.

Absent from the charges against him is his recent deportation order of 40,000 African refugees; a predictable move by President Trump’s closest foreign ally. That the deportation of 40,000 people isn’t considered criminally negligible reveals the Israeli state’s anti-black xenophobia, history as ethnocracy, and the state’s primary concerns.

That Israel prioritizes corruption over Netanyahu’s continued violations of Palestinian human-rights speaks to how low the moral bar has become for Israeli civil-society. The bombing raids of Gaza in 2008, 2012, and 2014, provoked international outrage as Israel bombed hospitals, schools, power plants, sewage systems, and used white-phosphorus on civilians. Yet, the images of dead Palestinian children seem to have no effect on shifting opinion within Israeli civil-society. For now, it appears that only luxury gifts can encourage this motivation.

Given the turbulence of Israeli politics and the right-wing surge that has motivated the deportation of African refugees, and the continued uprooting of Palestinians from the West Bank, it seems that whoever replaces Netanyahu will be on the extreme side of the Likud Party. The situation for the lower-classes of Israeli society, the Palestinians, and Israelis who resist the occupation of Palestine, will be faced with new challenges.

Another facet that will need to be considered is that the prime minister has no legal obligation to resign if convicted because there is no clause in the constitution that forces him to. For the Israeli political system to reproduce itself, and not appear a dictatorship, they will be faced with a dilemma if the charges against Netanyahu stick.

For a country that declares itself to be “the only democracy in the Middle East,” that most obvious hyperbole, the contradiction between how the Israeli state portrays itself and how its actual political system is put into practice is becoming further evident to the rest of the world.

The coming months will be revealing of how Israel’s political-class operates behind the scenes; between bribery and farce.

 

Opinion columnist Brant Roberts is a history senior and can be reached at [email protected].

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