When AFP went to press with Issue 39&40, on Sept. 20th, it appeared that Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party had been voted out of office. The question asked by Richard Walker remains relevant as that country’s leadership sorts itself out: Will “Bibi the crime minister” ever stand trial for his years of illegal and deadly policies?
By Richard Walker
With over 97% of the vote counted, the centrist Blue and White party—which would like to open up a dialogue with Palestinians—looks to have won the largest number of seats in the Knesset: 32 out of a total of 120. Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud came in a close second, with 31 seats. This is good news, as during his tenure as crime minister, “Bibi the Bully” has deliberately set Israel on course for widespread war across the entire Mideast region.
Netanyahu has held onto the post of prime minister for a decade. In the last few years he has pushed for another war with Hezbollah in Lebanon to settle the score for Israel’s poor performance in its war against Hezbollah in 2006. Back then, Israel underestimated the Lebanese militia and lost frontline troops and many tanks.
Netanyahu has also done everything possible to engage Iran in a war and to attack targets in Lebanon and Syria, hoping for a backlash from Hezbollah, Iran, or the Syrian government led by Basher al-Assad. To that end, Israel has carried out hundreds of bombings in Syria and Lebanon with a new tactic of using armed drone swarms directed at Hezbollah targets in the Lebanese capital, Beirut.
In the lead-up to this hotly contested election, it should come as no surprise that Netanyahu’s strategy was to start a conflict or promise one in the hope of salvaging his political career. Last April he won the popular vote, but his Likud Party was unable to build a large enough coalition in parliament to form a government. Knowing this, he has been busy using his familiar bully pulpit, promising to deal harshly with Iran and Hezbollah. Lately, he angered the United Nations and international leaders by promising that if re-elected he would annex vast swaths of the Jordan Valley that Palestinians had hoped would form part of their new state.
Behind all this bluster lies a man looking at possible jail time if, as appears likely, he faces charges for the criminal abuse of his position once he is out of power. His only hope to stay out of jail is to be re-elected, and he has been willing to go to any lengths to make that happen.
Even if Netanyahu loses power, there is strong evidence that he has already succeeded in moving his country so far to the extreme right that he has induced chaos in the political structure of Israel, increasing its potential for growing militarism. But that is not the whole story.
While he has been busy plotting with erratic Saudi leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Sal – man to sow chaos in Iraq, Syria, Iran, Yemen, Lebanon, and Syria, he has also been busy using his intelligence service, the Mossad, to bug the grounds of the White House. [See the related story at AFP Online, “Israel Caught Spying on Trump,” also published in Issue 39&40 for more on the latest charges of Israeli spying—Ed.]
Like other Israeli leaders before him, who sanctioned the theft of America’s nuclear secrets, he will play the “anti-Semitic card.” That takes the form of Israeli leaders claiming Israel is America’s best friend and that one does not target one’s best friend and that any claims to the contrary are anti-Jewish propaganda. That, of course, has been proven to be a lie time after time. The Israeli mantra has always been “Israel first.” One could list the numerous Israeli spies who have stolen American secrets—from publishing tycoon Robert Maxwell to mega-spy Jonathan Pollard.
As the latest spying revelations were being made public, Netanyahu’s own account on Facebook was taken offline for 24 hours because of hateful comments he made about Arabs. It was later reinstated after he alleged that the post had been made by a staffer and not him.
The White House has so far denied the spying allegation, though the fact that Netanyahu authorized such an operation will surely lead to some disturbing questions on Capitol Hill. It raises the prospect that Israel does not trust the Trump presidency. It could well be that Trump’s willingness to consider a summit with Iran’s leaders has so unnerved the Israeli establishment that they have been prepared to risk the president’s ire by bugging his home. If Mossad is willing to take such a risk, what other operations have been targeted at the president and his inner circle is a question that is now surely being asked within U.S. intelligence circles. Has the Mossad recorded Trump’s personal phone calls in an attempt to gather information to use against him?
And if Israel is so concerned about a summit that could lead to a new nuclear deal with Iran, would Netanyahu, if re-elected, or his successor resort to starting a war in Lebanon to draw in Iran and scupper Trump’s diplomatic overtures in parts of the region?
Netanyahu may be able to cling to power if he can successfully negotiate a compromise with other religious and right-wing parties, but that may be short-lived as prosecutors continue to close in with charges that he and his wife have repeatedly taken bribes while in positions of power over the course of the past few years. Either way, it appears Bibi the Bully’s time is short.
Richard Walker is the nom de plume of a former New York mainstream news producer who grew tired of seeing his articles censored by his bosses.