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February 15, 2018 9:03 am

Likud, Netanyahu Supporters Say Prime Minister Will Survive

avatar by Ariel Ben Solomon / JNS.org

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot attend a security counsel meeting at IDF Headquarters following the crash of an F-16 plane on February 10, 2018. Photo: Ariel Hermony/Ministry of Defense

JNS.org – Just as President Donald Trump overcame the media and left-wing establishment to win the US election despite his bluster and personal baggage, so too is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defying the odds in Israel.

Despite recommendations by the Israeli police to indict the prime minister for bribery and breach of trust, some of his poll numbers are rising.

According to survey results released by Channel 2 News on Wednesday (conducted before the full charges were made public), Netanyahu’s Likud Party would gain one Knesset seat and rise to 26 from 25. The closest competitor, Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid, would drop two seats, from 24 to 22.

Eli Hazan, director of communications and international relations for Israel’s ruling Likud Party, said in an interview on Wednesday that the charges against Netanyahu are “absurd.” He added: “I am sure they will end up with nothing.”

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“There have been 15 accusations made against Netanyahu,” all without toppling the prime minister, added Hazan.

Asked if he sees parties in the government coalition or top members in Likud abandoning the prime minister, Hazan dismissed such hypotheticals, saying “nothing will change.”

“I was a member of Likud in 1999 when Netanyahu was an unpopular prime minister, but today he is very popular,” he said.

When asked if the comparisons between Trump and Netanyahu are apt, considering the constant attacks in the media and from the left-wing establishment in both countries, Hazan pointed out that “it is not only the media; the left is trying to beat Bibi in another way since they can’t beat him in elections.”

In a visible sign of Netanyahu’s popularity, a video from Israel’s Kan public broadcasting company showed the prime minister receiving strong support from passersby as a reporter winds her way through the Machane Yehuda outdoor market in Jerusalem, asking them what they thought.

The reporter asked one man in a black jacket: “Aren’t you frustrated [by] your prime minister?” He responded: “God forbid! He will only go up … the public are not suckers, they see that the police are working for Yair Lapid and the opposition.”

Another man wearing a gray sweatshirt said, “The media is guilty … you know that most of the public today don’t watch the news anymore? … We love Bibi; he is our prime minister, and he doesn’t have a worthy replacement.”

Daniel Tauber, an attorney and Likud Central Committee member, said, “No one in the Likud will challenge Netanyahu based on the report or recommendations of the police.”

He added that “potential challengers understand that Netanyahu is doing great things for Israel, and if they don’t, they are smart enough to know that Likud members and voters won’t forgive them for an opportunistic attack on Netanyahu while he is dealing with these accusations.”

The conservative Israeli writer Caroline Glick also compared the phenomenon in Israel to the way the US media dislikes Trump. “The Israeli police investigation against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shows remarkable similarities with the Special Counsel probe against President Donald Trump in the United States,” she wrote at Breitbart.

Glick pointed out that Lapid, Netanyahu’s main political rival, also served as the key witness against him in Investigation 1000, regarding gifts the prime minister received from his friend Arnon Milchan, an Israeli businessman and Hollywood movie producer.

The police charge that Netanyahu took bribes from Milchan.

“If Netanyahu is cleared — and given the weakness of the charges against him, it’s hard to see how he can be indicted — then the police will lose their credibility and the public trust,” concluded Glick.

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