Thursday, May 31, 2018
Yoaz Hendel, a former adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu, has become one of his fiercest right-wing critics, denouncing his policies in columns and talk shows, and leading a rally against the corruption that's allegedly permeated his government. Now, even Hendel is reconsidering his views of the Israeli prime minister, impressed by his role in the transfer of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, the unraveling of the Iran nuclear deal, and Israel's strikes against Iranian military forces in Syria. He's not alone. Netanyahu's popularity has surged in recent polls, overshadowing the graft probes that have already produced police recommendations to indict him in two cases.
Netanyahu's grip on power is still potentially in jeopardy, and his political successes shouldn't have a bearing on Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit's decision whether to indict him in the corruption cases -- in theory at least. But it would take an especially aggressive attorney general to indict a popular, sitting prime minister for the first time in Israel's history, said Eran Vigoda-Gadot, a political science professor at Haifa University.
Just a few months ago, things were looking bleak for Netanyahu. Several former aides had agreed to testify against him, and as doubts about his political durability grew, right-wing rivals started positioning themselves for the post-Netanyahu era.
Today, gone are the headlines about gifts of pricey cigars and champagne from billionaires. European leaders have berated Israel for killing more than 120 Palestinians at sometimes violent protests in the Gaza Strip, but at home Netanyahu is widely seen as the forceful leader who persuaded Washington to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and recognize contested Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Next week, Netanyahu will fly to Berlin, Paris, and London, as he tries to persuade world leaders to turn up the pressure on Iran.
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