From Palestine Chronicle
Whether the string of scandals, now hounding Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, lead to his sacking or not, it matters little.
Though nearly half of Israelis polled last July -- well before the scandals took a much dirtier turn -- believe that Netanyahu is corrupt, a majority of Israelis said that they would still vote for him.
A recent survey conducted by Israel's Channel 10 TV concluded that, if general elections are held today, Netanyahu will garner 28% while his closest contenders, Avi Gabbay of the Zionist Camp and Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid will each gather 11% of the vote.
"The next stage, which is drawing near, is for the citizens of Israel to re-elect a criminal as their leader and entrust their fate to him," a leading Israeli columnist, Akiva Eldar, wrote in response to Netanyahu's continued popularity, despite accusations of corruption and repeated police investigations.
But Eldar should not be surprised. Political corruption, bribery and misuse of public funds have been the norm -- not exception -- in Israeli politics.
Alex Roy puts it more succinctly in a recent piece in the 'Times of Israel': "The fact that (Netanyahu) still has a good chance of being the prime minister after these coming elections says more about how used to corruption we have become than how clean he is."
Roy wrote that his country "has gotten used to political criminals" simply because "each prime minister over the last quarter century has at some point faced criminal charges."
He is right, but there are two major points that are missing in the discussion which had been, until recently, mostly confined to Israeli media.
First, the nature of the suspected misconduct of Netanyahu is different from his predecessors. This matters greatly.
Second, Israeli society's apparent acceptance of corrupt politicians might have less to do with the assumption that they have "gotten used" to the idea and more with the fact that the culture, as a whole, has grown corrupt. And there is a reason for it.
To elucidate, Netanyahu's alleged corruption is rather different from that of former Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert.
Olmert was corrupt the old-fashioned way. In 2006, he was found guilty of accepting bribes while serving as the mayor of Jerusalem. In 2012, he was convicted for breach of trust and bribery, this time as Prime Minister. In 2015 he was sentenced to six years imprisonment.
Other top Israeli officials were also indicted, including President Moshe Katsav, who was convicted of rape and obstruction of justice.
These charges remained largely confined to a person or two, making the nature of the conspiracy quite limited. Israeli and western media pundits used such prosecutions to make a point regarding the health of Israel's democracy, especially when compared with its Arab neighbors.
Things are different under Netanyahu. Corruption in Israel is becoming more like mafia operations, roping in elected civil servants, military brass, top lawyers and large conglomerates.
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