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Has Israel’s Shin Bet security agency decided to bring Netanyahu down?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) on 21 January 2019 [Mehahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images]
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on 21 January 2019 [Mehahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images]

Around 10,000 people demonstrated in Tel Aviv on Tuesday night in support of Benjamin Netanyahu. This was seen as a rather weak effort after more than seven days of rallying support for the Israeli Prime Minister. It was noted that officials and Knesset members from his party did not take part, which suggests that there is serious discontent within his party and among his supporters.

The demonstrators railed against what they called “the left”; they are so right-wing that they regard the likes of retired Generals Benny Gantz, Moshe Ya’alon and Gabi Ashkenazi, as well as Avigdor Lieberman, as being members of “the left”. They also attacked the media, accusing them of hating the right in general and Netanyahu in particular, and of making up accusations and suspicions to overthrow him and serve the interests of “the left”.

The media has indeed carried out some very serious investigations in order to uncover Netanyahu’s alleged corruption and fraud for which he has now been indicted. He is also said to have abused his position in order to control media outlets, which is a serious allegation for any government claiming to be a democracy.

However, the media needed the cooperation of internal security agency Shin Bet, which apparently provided information, including details of Netanyahu’s personal calls. If found guilty of the charges against him, he faces a prison sentence.

READ: All the signs are that Netanyahu’s political career is about to hit the buffers

There are some who believe that the Prime Minister will commit suicide if he is imprisoned, but he is not the type to kill himself; that would require the sort of courage that he does not possess. Even if he does go to jail, he will not confess any guilt, but will continue to claim that he has been framed by his political opponents. He is now accusing the investigators and judicial system of working in favour of his opponents, and is demanding that his investigators be investigated, which challenges the credibility of the Israeli judiciary.

I actually agree with Netanyahu that the integrity of the investigations and judiciary in Israel need to be challenged, but only when it comes to Palestinian suspects, who fill the occupation authority’s prisons. Not, though, when it comes to Netanyahu, who has friends like America’s Donald Trump, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and India’s Narendra Modi. Not when it comes to the Israeli Prime Minister who has personal relations with governments such as those in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and far-right leaders in Europe.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi [En.kremlin.ru]

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi [En.kremlin.ru]

Has he been treated unfairly? The opposite is actually true; the judiciary is being lenient with him. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit stalled before making and announcing his decision to indict Netanyahu. He gave the Likud leader the chance to win the General Election and form a government, which would have delayed his trial for years as a sitting Prime Minister of Israel. Mandelblit tried to avoid the inevitable trial of his one-time friend, but the facts and evidence uncovered by the police investigations, based on the media information given to the police, apparently proved his clear involvement in wrongdoing enough for an indictment. The Attorney General had no choice, and optimism about an acquittal is non-existent. The decision to put him trial would not have been made if conclusive evidence did not exist. Netanyahu will try to avoid this by all means, hence his incitement against the legal system, the judiciary and police officers. He may even launch further military offensives in every direction, even against Iran, to divert attention from his predicament, but a prison uniform is waiting for him.

READ: Send Netanyahu to prison to pave way for new government says Ehud Barak

The apparently strong cooperation between the media and Shin Bet probably means that the security agency believes that there is no longer any choice but to overthrow Netanyahu by legitimate means, not through a coup, as the Prime Minister would have us believe. He angered Shin Bet over the sale of a German submarine to Egypt, turning a blind eye to the deal because it profited those close to him. In Shin Bet’s eyes, though, the deal harmed Israel’s strategic security. Its officials were also angered by Netanyahu’s boasting about spy agency Mossad’s operations in Iran, which they see as undermining Shin Bet’s work, and could endanger the lives of its agents in Iran. They even said that the Iranian authorities have benefited more than once from Netanyahu’s boasting, such as the disclosure of the location of a nuclear site; this led Iran, says Shin Bet, to hide what was happening there.

These issues, and perhaps others that we do not know about, must have led Shin Bet to make the critical decision to remove Netanyahu from power. He is no longer a source of security for Israel, and so must be brought down. It is hard to reach any other conclusion in this whole sordid affair.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Quds Al-Arabi on 27 November 2019

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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