Those weren’t the words of Donald Trump. They were the combative statements of Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu, who is facing a widening corruption scandal that threatens to end his political career. Wednesday night, at a Tel Aviv rally organized by his Likud party, Netanyahu went on the offensive. “We know that the left and the media and we know that it’s the same thing is on an unprecedented hunt against me and my family to bring down the government,” he said. “They are putting unrelenting pressure on the legal system in order for them to present an indictment without any proof.”The rally and the reaction comes back to a long-running corruption scandal in Israel, which just last week took an explosive new turn. Israel is now facing the very real prospect that Netanyahu, Israel’s long-serving prime minister, will lose his job and even potentially be sent to jail. But as the comments make clear, he’s not going down without a fight. Netanyahu, arguably Donald Trump’s closest ally in the Middle East, has been shadowed by allegations of financial improprieties for years but has always stayed one step ahead of his pursuers. That seems to be changing.The latest and potentially decisive blows to Netanyahu began last week with a pair of disclosures that stunned observers on both sides of Israel’s political spectrum. On Thursday, court filings revealed Netanyahu was now officially a suspect in bribery, breach of trust, and fraud cases. Another shocker came that same day with news that Netanyahu’s former chief of staff, an Israeli-American named Ari Harow, took a plea bargain to become a state’s witness in a corruption case against his former boss. In exchange for a light sentence of community service, and a 700,000 shekel ($193,000) fine, Harow will now testify against Netanyahu.It’s not just the prime minister his whole household is under scrutiny: The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported on Monday that his wife, Sara Netanyahu, will likely be indicted soon for misuse of government funds. For most politicians, those types of disclosures would mean it was a question of when, not if, their careers would end in disgrace. But Netanyahu has long been the Phoenix of Israeli politics, and he angrily dismissed the new revelations. On Facebook, he derisively called them “background noise.” Miri Regev, the minister of sports and culture and a close Netanyahu ally, told the press, “I’m not worried at all. The prime minister is not worried either.”So far, many of Netanyahu’s allies have remained behind him. But if his legal woes continue, that could change. And while it’s still too early to assess the likelihood of incarceration, prison is not totally out of the question. After all, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was only just released from prison after serving 16 months for a different corruption charge. To be sure, an indictment might not mean the end of Netanyahu’s political career. “Formally, he won’t have to resign,” Hebrew University law professor Barak Medina told the Associated Press. “[I]f all the information comes out and the police recommend he be charged with a serious crime, it is unlikely he will be able to carry on in his job.”That wouldn’t just be bad news for Netanyahu, who is trying to surpass David Ben-Gurion, the founder of the modern Jewish State, as the longest-serving prime minister in his country’s history. It would also be bad news for President Donald Trump, who’d be losing his closest ally in the Middle East just as he prepares a major new peace initiative.
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