16:56 GMT +310 December 2019
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    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a meeting of Likud party members at the Knesset in Jerusalem on October 3, 2019.

    Coalition Failure More Likely to Oust Netanyahu than ‘Notoriously Slow’ Israeli Legal System

    © AFP 2019 / Menahem Kahana
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    On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three different cases. Although it may be challenging for Netanyahu to contest these charges, under Israeli law, he could continue to serve as prime minister even after being convicted, Jim Kavanagh, editor of The Polemicist, told Sputnik.

    “It seems like Netanyahu is desperate to keep [himself] in office, because only as prime minister does he have some kind of immunity from these charges … So, he seems desperate about that. It’s hard to see how he’s going to slip out of it entirely but I wouldn't put it past him. But he’s got challenges now even from within [Netanyahu’s] Likud party, so I think it will be hard” for the prime minister to contest the charges against him, Kavanagh told Radio Sputnik’s Loud and Clear on Friday. 

    “It’s interesting to see these charges, because the bribery here has to do with media coverage. There were two charges that had to do with media coverage,” Kavanagh told host John Kiriakou.

    Netanyahu has been accused of fraud and breach of trust for receiving valuable gifts, such as cigars and champagne, from billionaires James Packer and Arnon Milchan between 2007 and 2016 in exchange for political favors. He has also been accused of promising the editor of one of Israel’s biggest papers, Yedioth Ahronoth, that he would sabotage the paper’s biggest rival, Israel Hayom, in exchange for favorable news coverage. Lastly, Netanyahu has been accused of using his position as prime minister to establish a quid-pro-quo deal with the news site Walla!, supporting the business interests of its owner Shaul Elovitch in return for favorable coverage.

    Netanyahu has claimed that the accusations are simply a “witch hunt” and that the corruption charges filed against him are an “attempted coup,” painting himself as a right-wing prime minister being targeted by left-wing officials.

    "You would have to be blind not to see that something bad is happening with the police and the prosecution, because tonight we are witnessing an attempted government coup against the prime minister through blood libels and a biased investigation process,” Netanyahu said in a televised statement Thursday.

    However, according to Kavanagh, the prime minister is bound to be stripped of his parliamentary immunity if he can’t form a coalition government in the Knesset.

    “He’s going to be stripped of it [if] he doesn’t form a government. He’s already been thrown out of the government in the sense that there’s a contested election going on,” Kavanagh pointed out.

    On Thursday, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin gave the Knesset 21 days to form a coalition government after both Netanyahu and his rival, Blue and White alliance head Benny Gantz, failed to establish one.

    However, even if Netanyahu is convicted of the charges against him, he might still be able to remain in office while the appeals process plays out.

    According to a Thursday report by the Brookings Institution, “Israeli law does not prevent Netanyahu from serving as prime minister while under indictment or even while on trial. Only a final conviction - following all appeals - would bar him from the office, and Israel’s legal system is notoriously slow, especially when a well-represented defendant is intent on slowing the process down.”

    "A conviction following appeal, if it happened, would be years away,” the report added.

    Adding to that, Kavanagh noted that Netanyahu could even “run again under indictment.” 

    “He will play out as long as he can if the Likud party allows him to do it,” Kavanagh told Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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