Categorized | Middle East, Sharkansky_Ira

Netanyahu probe, Fatah- Hamas accord back on agenda

By Ira Sharkansky

Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM — Alas, we’re beyond the holidays. This week marks the effective beginning of the new year.

Americans might think of the period between pre-Christmas and the post-New Year return from too many parties, too much food and alcohol. In our case, however, the pre- to post- holiday bash lasts for more than a month.

“Bash” isn’t quite right for a season that includes Yom Kippur. “Hiatus” would be better.

Two expectations are competing for attention.

One is the renewal of police-prosecutor activity focused on our Prime Minister and those close to him.

The second is yet another effort of the Palestinians of Hamas and Fatah, the Gazans and the West Bankers, to make peace between them.

We’ve been hearing of four meetings the police are planning with the Prime Minister. And there are likely to be more than four, given fresh allegations by the former IDF Commander then Defense Minister about the Prime Minister’s involvement in a complex deal with a German shipyard. Till now, charges of corruption have tied only close aides of the Prime Minister to that morass. Now the former Defense Minister, along with Israeli and German media, are linking that scandal directly to Benjamin Netanyahu.

For some time now, we’ve heard of intensive questioning about gifts to the Netanhayus exceeding several hundred thousand dollars in value, the Prime Minister’s effort to pressure the publisher of Yedioth Aharonoth to soften his paper’s criticism, and a number of his aides (including one who is also a close relative) profiting from Israel’s purchase of submarines and other warships from a German shipyard.

Now it seems that the Prime Minister himself was active in assuring that it would be that shipyard, and not a Korean competitor that would be building Israel’s ships.

Bibi has attacked the police and the man he was instrumental in appointing to head the police for biased action, and a campaign of leaks meant to stain his reputation. Some coalition ministers and MKs are lining up behind Netanyahu, but others are attacking his attack against the police, and some of his party colleagues are stumbling through responses to reporters that seem designed to protect their own asses rather than to make a clear statement of their views.

The PM’s attack on the police created its own media circus, but instead of the smell of popcorn and cotton candy, there was the scent of a Prime Minister sweating in desperation.

There are Likud MKs, perhaps with the support of the Prime Minister, who are talking up a proposal to ban the police investigation of a Prime Minister.

Opposition within the coalition to Bibi’s attack on the police should calm fears that such a move might succeed.

There is already an indictment drafted against Sara Natanyahu, concerned with her management of the Prime Minister’s residence.

There’s a story of her pressuring one of the billionaires, asking for an additional piece of jewelry to match that already received.

The Netanyahu’s unemployed 26 year old son, Yair, has been implicated in the receipt of gifts from a foreign billionaire wanting something from Bibi. Yair has also been exhibiting boorish political behavior in his postings on social media. Whether all that may amount to another family member in the dock, or simply more headlines, is yet to be seen.

Relax. Nothing will happen very soon.

It took a very long time to put former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert behind bars.

The State Comptroller reported what was arguably a criminal instance of corruption in 1991, concerning Olmert as a young Minister of Health. After years of other allegations, considered and closed without action by the police and prosecutors when Olmert was Mayor of Jerusalem, an indictment for other offenses and Olmert’s resignation as Prime Minister came in 2009. Then numerous court appearances and delays resulted in a final conviction and imprisonment in 2014.

If Olmert’s history of nearly a quarter century of allegations until imprisonment is taken as a standard of comparison, it’ll take a few more years before Netanyahu is forced to leave office, and additional years before he (and/or other family members) can expect to see the other side of prison bars.

It’s not easy investigating a sitting Prime Minister. The police come to the Prime Minister’s Office or residence, rather than demanding his appearance at the station. Then there’s frequently a matter of high importance to explain his failure to appear or to interrupt the questioning.

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Palestinian government makes Israel’s appear to be the height of rationality and professional dispatch.

The highly trumpted deal between Fatah and Hamas could be nothing more than the latest farce in a continuing Comic Opera. Previous accords have ended quickly in acrimony and/or bloodshed. This one ignores what is likely to be the most serious issue, in its failure to put Hamas’ fighters,weapons, and anti-Israel tunnels under Fatah control.

An even more problematic element in the deal is the possibility that it will spread the influence of Hamas and even more extremist factions to the West Bank, then greater anti-Israel violence and a catastrophic Israeli response.

Palestinian polls repeatedly indicate that Hamas has more popular support than Fatah.

Part of the Comic Opera is that the Presidential term of Mahmoud Abbas ended in January of 2009, and he’s still in office.

If the Palestinians ever get around to holding an election that is monitored and declared fair by some body other than one led by the half blind, apologetic, and excessively tolerant Jimmy Carter, then Hamas may seize the governing institutions in the West Bank as well as Gaza.

In that event, terror as well as rockets may come to Israel from two directions. And then Israel is likely to repeat its response to the Intifada that began in 2000, and perhaps exceed what it has done in the past. Instead of a new town and shopping malls, there’ll be piles of rubble. It might be easier for Israel than it had been, under a higher level of overseas tolerance if Donald Trump is still in the White House, and with Egyptians, Saudis, and Jordanians tired of Palestinians, wary of extremists, and cooperating with Israel against Iran and its friends.

Israel’s government has declared that there will be no negotiations with Palestinians as long as Hamas–widely recognized as a terrorist organization–is part of their establishment.

Optimists see Hamas as learning from its misadventures, seeking to firm up its political side, and reining in more extremists. Pessimists justify their posture by reference to Hamas rhetoric, and its continuing allocation of limited resources to its fighters as opposed to social services.

At the same time, Israel has eased its restrictions on Gazan fishermen.

There are carrots as well as sticks.

The time line of Donald Trump is outside the range of Israel’s holidays, but he is adding to the unknowns under the heading of “Now what?”

The President’s criticism of the deal made by Obama seems without limit, but he’s so far avoiding anything operational.

Prime Minister Natanyahu is proclaiming his support. His subtext is I said it first, and you’d better keep me on as Prime Minister so I can see the country through whatever happens.

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Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University.  He may be contacted via [email protected]

 

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