19.11.2020 Author: Valery Kulikov

Israel is in a Political Crisis Amplified by Trump’s Defeat


The year 2020 is winding down for the current Israeli political elite with events that are patently unpleasant.

First, there is growing discontent in the country with Benjamin Netanyahu’s premiership. For the 22nd week, in different parts of the country protests have not subsided: on Saturday, November 14, at least 1,000 demonstrators came out to protest in Haifa, with hundreds in Tel Aviv and more than 2,000 people gathered in Jerusalem on Paris Square… The march against Netanyahu mushroomed into open clashes with the police, and some demonstrators were arrested. The protesters are speaking out in favor of removing Netanyahu from power, and represent protest against the recent decision not to investigate the “Netanyahu submarine case”. The scandal, also known in the country as “Case 3000”, is associated with an Israeli-German contract for the purchase of three submarines and four military cutters for the Israeli Navy. During a journalistic investigation, a representative from the Israeli media, Raviv Drucker, managed to find out that the contract was entered into with a substantial corruption-related component, and with active participation on the part of Netanyahu.

As a follow-up to the protest actions taken against numerous instances of corruption that involve Netanyahu, the Knesset is reviewing a bill that prohibits persons who have been charged with criminal offenses from serving as prime minister:  “The head of government cannot be a person against whom charges of corruption have been brought,” declared Yoav Segalovich, a spokesman for the opposition party Yesh Atid.

Under the guise of “obstructing events with a large number of participants amidst the spread of the coronavirus pandemic,” soldiers with IDF intelligence units involved in the anti-coronavirus Alon Headquarters are keeping track of events on social media networks with particular zeal, trying to prevent protests from mushrooming.

Despite desperate attempts by Netanyahu’s lawyers to drag out the judicial proceedings, Judge Rivka Friedman-Feldman did not grant them a continuance to respond to the indictment, and demanded that a response be presented by November 29. In these conditions, the forecast given by Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit that due to the indictment Benjamin Netanyahu will have to resign as prime minister is becoming more and more realistic.

The situation worsened after criminal charges were filed against a number of Netanyahu supporters on suspicion of inciting violence against Mandelblit. One person “close to the Likud” filed a complaint with the police about the actions taken by the Israeli Prime Minister’s supporters online, who communicated this via WhatsApp: “We need to take to the streets and set fire to the state, stronger than the yellow vests did in France, to pull Fuhrer Mandelblit out of his house and lynch him in Malkey Israel Square, like Ceausescu and his wife.”

The panic in the ruling elite due to the current situation has been ramped up by the obvious defeat of Donald Trump in the presidential election, since it is really true that nowhere was Trump’s failure perceived so achingly as it was in Israel. After all, over the most recent historical period, Israel has repeatedly been forced to suffer because of a policy that is “disadvantageous” for this Jewish state adopted by Joe Biden’s predecessors, fellow Democrats Carter and Clinton – according to the Israeli media, they foisted the “bloody Camp David and Oslo agreements” on the country. Democrat Barack Obama also did not leave a stamp in Israel’s memory as a “friendly US president” due to the fact that he entered into a “nuclear agreement” with Iran, and openly supported the Palestinians in the Middle East settlement.

In this situation, it is not surprising that Netanyahu, with good reason, was hesitant to congratulate the new US President, Joe Biden, knowing full well that if he made any errors his “friend Donald” would not forgive him.

Now, Netanyahu is actively seeking to actualize the maximum number of events that could be beneficial for Israel in the remaining days of “Trump’s rule”. For example, on November 15, at Israel’s insistence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that in the upcoming days the United States would once again tighten the sanctions regime against Iran. At the same time, Pompeo, under the onslaught of Tel Aviv and the pro-Israel lobby in the United States, and fearing that Biden could reverse many of Trump’s decisions, is trying to take measures that will be difficult to reverse. In particular, he went on a foreign tour to visit France, Turkey, Georgia, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia to hold active rounds of talks in those places. The fact that all the politicians with whom Pompeo will meet have already congratulated Biden on his victory, and have agreed beforehand to work with his administration, is something that stands out. However, by imposing an official trip to these countries on them, Pompeo is overtly putting his foreign colleagues in an uncomfortable position, since he is trying to persuade them to cooperate on issues that benefit Trump’s administration, and on which Biden, when he comes to power, will obviously take a different position.

Demonstrating his loyalty during “the decline” of the Trump administration, Netanyahu has even agreed to sign an agreement to purchase the American anti-coronavirus vaccine from Pfizer, something which is clearly unprofitable for Israel but beneficial for certain circles in the United States, and he underscored during a meeting of the Israeli government on November 15 that this is “a great investment”. It is true that even by November 16, Israeli TV channel 13 had notified the country’s citizens that the vaccine from the American pharmaceutical company Pfizer to combat the COVID-19 coronavirus would cost Israel 43% more than it would cost EU countries and the US, meaning that the agreement signed by Netanyahu is of clear detriment to Israel. And this, in turn, does not bar the possibility that a corruption-related component in the actions taken by Netanyahu exists, and this will undoubtedly lead to new protests in the country directed against him.

Against this backdrop, the scandal hyped up by American media and latched onto by The Times of Israel calls attention to itself; this is connected with the previous sensational statements made by recently appointed Senior Advisor to the Acting Secretary of Defense Douglas Macgregor that money from the “Israeli lobby became the basis of Washington’s support for Jerusalem”. In particular, this senior Pentagon official accused former and current representatives of the Donald Trump administration of “astronomical enrichment” during their time in the White House; among those he pointed out US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in particular, who became “very, very rich” as a result of his support for Israel.

But 2020 is not over yet, and therefore, naturally, new revelations and scandals associated with Netanyahu, and with representatives of the Trump administration, still await us all – they have managed to advantageously “shore up” their financial situation by ramming through the positions taken by Israel in the international arena and bilateral “commercial cooperation”.

Valery Kulikov, a political analyst, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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