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After this week's revelations, it could be a matter of days for Benjamin Netanyahu

The Israeli Prime Minister's political lifetime has been radically shortened

    Calling time? Israeil Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
    Calling time? Israeil Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: Flash90)

    When the police announced it was recommending an indictment against Benjamin Netanyahu on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, his premiership was being measured in months.

    That was the time the Attorney General was expected to take to make his official decision, which would have forced his coalition partners to show him the door.

    But after the events of this week, many now in Jerusalem are measuring Mr Netanyahu’s political future in weeks, perhaps even days.

    It was the arrest of eight further people in yet another police investigation that changed everything.

    Interactive explainer: The five corruption charges facing Benjamin Netanyahu

    This time police suspect that Bezeq, a telecom company, received regulatory benefits in return for favourable media coverage of Mr Netanyahu on Walla!, a news website owned by Bezeq’s main shareholder.

    It is not just that, in this case, the evidence potentially linking Mr Netanyahu to bribery allegations is so much clearer than in the two cases where police already recommend he faces charges.

    It is also that two of the prime minister’s most trusted advisors were arrested, as was Bezeq chairman Shaul Alovich, his wife and his son.

    And if that was not enough, on Tuesday evening the news came that one of the arrested suspects, Communications Ministry Director General Shlomo Filber, had signed a state witness agreement and was about to tell all he knew.

    Mr Filber has worked for Mr Netanyahu for the better part of two decades, including stints as his chief of staff and campaign manager. At the ministry, he is alleged to have pushed through regulatory decisions worth hundreds of millions of shekels to Mr Alovich.

    It was unclear, as the JC went to press on Wednesday evening, what evidence Mr Filber had given to the police as part of the deal.

    But the twists that this tale has already produced mean that anything is possible. Just this week it was reported that the Netanyahu family spokesman Nir Hefetz allegedly asked a retired judge whether she would be interested in becoming the next attorney general – in exchange for shutting down the investigation in to misuse of public funds by Sara Netanyahu.

    The strength of this evidence and whether police can link the allegations against Mr Hefetz to the prime minister was unclear, but accusations like these could force Mr Netanyahu’s coalition partners Naftali Bennett or Moshe Kahlon to demand his resignation.

    “I simply don’t know how long it will take before we have to threaten to resign,” said one senior minister, bewildered by the pace of the revelations, after only recently expressing his support for Mr Netanyahu.

    Of course, the prime minister could try and pre-empt a putsch by calling for early elections like he did at the end of 2014, but that would be risky. There is a possibility that 61 Knesset members would agree on supporting a temporary government under a caretaker prime minister, just to bid farewell to the scandal-ridden prime minister.

    Even if he succeeds in dissolving the Knesset, the election campaign would be dominated by just one thing. At present, the polls still favour Mr Netanyahu, but that could change over the months when he would be the sole issue – especially since more revelations are bound to emerge.

    A week ago, it seemed that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit – who still has to decide whether to accept last week’s police recommendations – held the prime minister’s fate and could have given Mr Netanyahu many more months in office before reaching a decision.

    But everything could now hinge on what one member of the inner-most Netanyahu circle is telling the police.

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