x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 February 2018

Netanyahu faces the toughest challenge of his career

The peace process risks being mutilated at the altar of the Israeli PM’s doomed career

Netanyahu can be counted upon to use this time to engineer a deadly campaign of mass distraction. EPA
Netanyahu can be counted upon to use this time to engineer a deadly campaign of mass distraction. EPA

The ability of Benjamin Netanyahu to survive scandal has earned him the sobriquet “magician” among the ranks of his supporters. As The National reported, Mr Netanyahu was as combative as ever on Tuesday, after Israeli police announced that they had recommended formal corruption charges be brought against the prime minister. “I do everything with only one thing in mind, the good of the country”, he declared in a 12-minute live address on television.

The recommendation of indictment is the product of a painstaking investigation into two cases – one involving alleged receipt of bribes from a Hollywood mogul and an Australian billionaire, and the other centred on backroom dealings with a newspaper publisher reportedly to obtain favourable coverage – that took almost a year to complete.

It is now up to Israel’s attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, to decide whether to indict Mr Netanyahu. Since Mr Mandelblit owes his career to the prime minister, it far from certain that the process, which can take months, will culminate in charges being entered against Mr Netanyahu, who can be counted upon to use this time to engineer a deadly campaign of mass distraction. As his own former defence minister said last year, Mr Netanyahu will “set the country and the region alight” just to save his skin.

As always, the Palestinians will be used as a convenient alibi. The peace process, already dying, is now at the risk of being irremediably mutilated at the altar of Mr Netanyahu’s doomed political career. The United States has ceased to be an honest mediator, throwing its weight behind the extreme right wing of Israeli public opinion that the prime minister both incites and embodies. Never a believer in peace, Mr Netanyahu threatens to become, in his wounded state, its mortal enemy. The magician’s reign may be nearing its end – but his maledictions will continue to haunt the Middle East.

Follow The National's Opinion section on Twitter