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Netanyahu: what happens now?

Netanyahu: what happens now?
Copyright REUTERS
Copyright REUTERS
By Catherine Hardy with Reuters
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A guide to the Israeli prime minister's career, some possible candidates to succeed him and what impact any change in leadership might have on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


**Benjamin Netanyahu is the dominant Israeli politician of his generation. **

On Tuesday, Israeli police recommended the 68-year-old prime minister be indicted for bribery in two separate cases.

It is now up to Israel's attorney general Avichai Mandelblit to decide whether to press charges. The decision could take months.

However, the fact that the leader of the country's governing right-wing coalition is being scrutinised by prosecutors will likely affect the political calculations of his supporters, rivals and opponents.

Does he have to resign?

No. He is under no strict obligation to quit. He has, in fact, given every indication he intends to remain in office while fighting the legal battle.

There has not been much public pressure from coalition partners for him to step down. However, that could change as details of the cases emerge.

However, several polls in the last few months suggest his popularity might be ebbing.

There has also been speculation he might call early elections. But he said in a televised address on Tuesday night that he is "certain" the next elections will be held on schedule. They are not due until November 2019.

What is his background?

Netanyahu has been in power on-and-off since 1996. Here is a rundown of his personal and political life so far:

  • The son of an Israeli historian

  • Born in Tel Aviv 1949

  • Moved to the US in the 1960s

  • The middle of three brothers

  • Came to attention as Israel's ambassador to the UN during the first Palestinian Intifada in 1987

  • Secured the leadership of the right-wing Likud Party

  • Elected prime minister in 1996

  • Elected for second term in 2009, third term in 2015

  • Will become Israel's longest-serving leader if he serves the full four-years until elections in November 2019

  • Close to US President Donald Trump, who has recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital, much to the anger of Palestinians.

Who are the potential successors?

Polls suggest Yair Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid opposition party, is the strongest candidate to succeed Netanyahu if he is forced out.

However, other candidates could enter the race, which would shift the balance.

Several members of the Likud party are vying to succeed Netanyahu. Names mentioned include:

  • Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan

  • Intelligence Minister Israel Katz

  • Former Education Minister Gideon Saar

Other names in far-right parties in Netanyahu's governing coalition:

  • Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman

  • Education Minister Naftali Bennett

What would Netanyahu's departure mean for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and stability in the Middle East?

A cloud over Netanyahu's political future would compound the uncertainty surrounding prospects for a resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks thata collapsed in 2014.

A successor from within Likud would need the support of the party's hardline central committee. This passed a non-binding resolution in December calling for annexation of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. This was captured by Israel in 1967 and is still claimed by Palestinians for a future state.

Many, even Netanyahu's political opponents, do not think his legal problems will affect his decision-making on security matters.

What are the allegations?

One centres on a claim Mr Netanyahu asked the publisher of an Israeli newspaper for positive coverage in exchange for help reining in a rival publication.

The second allegation centres on a claim that Mr Netanyahu received gifts worth at least a million shekels (228,000 euros) from supporters.

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