Seeing the Israel Police recommend corruption charges for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was somewhat cathartic for Israelis and Israel watchers of a certain political persuasion. It finally exposed a weakness in Israel’s Teflon man, almost nine years into his current premiership and heretofore seemingly untouchable. But the demise of the prime minister’s career is hardly a guaranteed outcome at this stage. Even if Netanyahu is dragged kicking and screaming into a resignation, it would not ensure a sustainable opposition victory. For those who would like to see Netanyahu and the things he represents exit stage left from the Jewish state’s political scene, celebration is premature.

Since 2009, Netanyahu has fashioned himself into a supremely dislikable figure, among many Israelis, but especially as viewed from abroad. Whether fairly or not, Netanyahu (not his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas), often receives the brunt of the blame for a failing peace process. Comments he made during the last Knesset election backpedaling on the two-state solution and denigrating Arab Israeli voters deepened the prime minister’s reputation as someone unmoored by moral convictions, willing to play to the prejudices of a racist electorate. In the U.S., the prime minister’s embrace of Donald Trump and Mitt Romney before him, along with his serial disrespect for President Barack Obama made Netanyahu a partisan figure who helped render Israel an increasingly partisan issue for American lawmakers.

But Netanyahu will not find himself in the dock for any of these actions. The explicitly illegal behavior Netanyahu is alleged to have committed includes accepting bribes (Case 1000) and [attempting] administering political favors (Case 2000). The prime minister’s job security is not in jeopardy because of his political track record, which has invited broad, frequently international, opprobrium.

Even if Netanyahu is indicted and forced to resign – still a big “if” – the prime minister’s case could drag through the courts for months, possibly upwards of a year. In the near term, his government is not liable to collapse. Kulanu Party leader and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, has signaled he will stay in. Bayit Yehudi’s Ayelet Shaked, the Israeli justice minister, supports Netanyahu holding onto his seat even if an indictment is issued. Yisrael Beiteinu chief and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman expressed his backing of Netanyahu’s premiership up until the day the prime minister is convicted.  

And then there is the question of the day after. Should circumstances change and Netanyahu step down because of the charges levied against him, the opposition is not guaranteed to establish a secure center-left government. Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party, was once a leading contender against Netanyahu. Now he is a key state witness against the prime minister. The irony here is that even if Lapid plays a part in bringing Netanyahu down in the courtroom, right-wing pundits could use Lapid’s role in the trial to cast the proceedings as politically motivated, taking the spotlight off the prime minister and undermining the opposition’s legitimacy. Meanwhile, Labor’s electoral prospects vacillate with party leader Avi Gabbay’s views on the Palestinian conflict.

If Netanyahu is indeed guilty then he should be tried and convicted. But for the opposition, bringing down the prime minister over corruption charges is the easy way out. It would not see Israelis who voted for Netanyahu’s Likud party and its coalition partners enter the next round of elections with changed mindsets on the Palestinians, relations with the United States, or African asylum seekers because those issues are almost entirely unrelated to the charges the prime minister currently faces.

It is much the same with people who wish for Donald Trump’s swift impeachment. If Trump were to be removed from office, it would not be for his toxic racism and misogyny, nor for his nuclear saber-rattling on Twitter and exclusionary refugee policies – in other words, the things people most resent the president for. More likely, the charges would relate to anything from conflicts of interest to obstruction of justice. Beyond the obvious – that it would leave Vice President Mike Pence at the helm – an impeachment would not signal a shift in the attitudes that enabled Trump to reach the highest office in the land. In Israel, as in America, a corruption trial, like impeachment, would not mean previously right-wing voters now accept the center-left’s political program. Indeed, the opposition cannot rely on the incumbent’s legal troubles to achieve political victories. If they wish to change Israel for the better, Benjamin Netanyahu’s opponents will need to compellingly pitch their ideals independent of the prime minister’s developing corruption cases.  

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