Benjamin Netanyahu (Bibi) is Israel’s current prime minister who is seeking his fifth term in office. If he wins, he will become Israel’s longest serving prime minister.
Netanyahu has been the face of Israeli politics for decades and one of its most controversial. He is running for the 9 April 2019 election as head of the Likud party, a right-wing political party sticking with him despite the fact he has just been charged with three counts of corruption.
Netanyahu is facing indictment for bribery, fraud and breach of trust; from accepting gifts of Cuban cigars and pink champagne to striking secret deals in return for positive press coverage.
But this is not the first time Netanyahu has found himself in hot water over his spending habits. In 2013, he made headlines for allocating some $2,700 of the government budget a year for ice cream.
An indictment, according to Israeli law, would not force a sitting prime minister to resign unless he is convicted in court, but it is something Netanyahu’s opponents are definitely capitalising on. But Netanyahu has ensured even the evidence against him will be withheld until after the election.
Netanyahu’s motto has been ‘best defence is a good offense’, taking tried and tested tactics right out of the Trump playbook. He is a close friend of US President Donald Trump who, against the will of the international community, unilaterally moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognised the Holy City as Israel’s capital, disregarding any Palestinian claim to the city.
Likud has even used Trump’s face in its own campaigns, proclaiming that Netanyahu is ‘in another league’.
#IsraElex19: Israeli Elections 2019
While Trump’s election scapegoated Muslims and Mexicans, Likud’s slogan has hit out against Israel’s nearly 1.8 million Palestinian citizens. Netanyahu is also working with extremist, far-right parties like Otzma Yehudit (Jewish power), which he may need to form a coalition.
‘It’s either Bibi or Tibi’ – that’s Likud’s slogan, using Arab-Israeli politician Ahmad Tibi to scaremonger the Israeli public into voting Likud in order to avoid a ‘left-wing’ government supported by Arab-Israeli parties.
So what would it mean for Palestinians if Netanyahu wins?
If Netanyahu gets his way, he would continue settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank in breach of international law, which would make the internationally-recognised two-state solution on the 1967 borders even more unattainable and further threaten any prospect for peace with the Palestinians.
“There won’t be any more uprooting or halting settlements – just the opposite,” he said during a visit to an illegal settlement outpost. “The Land of Israel is ours, and will remain ours.”
Since re-assuming office in 2009, Netanyahu has upheld Israel’s siege on the Gaza Strip and led 2 military campaigns against it – with Operation Protective Edge in 2014 being the most devastating assault the Strip has experienced. And while he says he doesn’t “yearn for an unnecessary war in Gaza” and blames Hamas for any escalation, he also says “the Palestinians know very well that if the price is going to be paid, it will be heavy.”
And that’s not all. Under his administration the Nation-State Law was passed in the Knesset, defining Israel as ‘the national home of the Jewish people’, effectively rendering the country’s Palestinians second-class citizens and denying the Palestinian right to self-determination. The law has been criticised widely, described by Palestinians and members of the international community alike as discriminatory and verging on apartheid.
In fact Netanyahu said was: “This law helps prevent the continued uncontrolled entry into Israel of Palestinians”.
Netanyahu has so far proved incredibly resilient in the face of the corruption scandal which has plagued his administration, but is his anti-Palestinian rhetoric enough to keep him in power?
(Video editing by Abdelrahman Said)