Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knew during the past week, if not before, that he would call an election, and even consulted some of his coalition partners about dates. Sources inform "Globes" that people in the Kulanu party knew that the election date would be set for early April, but maintained complete silence.
Last week, during the "Globes" Israel Business Conference, the prime minister learned that the State Attorney had finished working on the files of the investigations into his affairs, and that 800 pages summarizing the investigation materials had been sent to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit. Mandelblit and State Attorney Shai Nitzan dropped this bombshell in their speeches at the conference, and stated that from this week, the legal staff in Mandelblit's office would convene to make decisions. The decisions are expected within two months.
Now, by calling an election for the first week of April, Netanyahu has maneuvered Mandelblit and the State Attorney's Office into a corner. They will not now be able to come out with statements concerning the allegations against the prime minister without being accused of biasing the political system and of a quasi-judicial decision.
The political establishment has been readying for this moment for months. From the day that Avigdor Liberman resigned a minister of defense, it has been clear to all the players that a coalition based on 61 out of 120 members of Knesset cannot see out a fourth year. Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon has said so several times, and Liberman himself hoped that his move would start the early election ball rolling. Netanyahu, however, managed to keep his government going for a month after the publicity generated by the resignation had died down, thereby severing the causal connection between Liberman's move, his fury at the transfer of millions of dollars to Hamas and the restraint shown towards its regime in Gaza - and the start of an election campaign.
Netanyahu planned his move well. First of all, he took on the defense portfolio, and thus enters the campaign as prime minister, minister of foreign affairs, and minister of defense, something almost unprecedented in this country (Ehud Barak held the three portfolios for a short time in 2000 but he immediately appointed an acting foreign minister until the appointment was approved by the government).
Netanyahu is embarking on an election campaign in a situation in which there is no decision by the attorney general to indict him, and his popularity among the Israeli public, according to the various opinion polls, is sky high.
Nevertheless, in many conversations with journalists over the past year, Netanyahu has repeated the well-known saying: "You know how you get into an election campaign, but you never know how you'll come out of it." In other words, polls and predictions on the day an election is decided on must be treated with due caution.
The investigations into the affairs of Benjamin Netanyahu are currently under discussion in the State Attorney's Office and the Ministry of Justice, and he is presumed innocent.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on December 25, 2018
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2018