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As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared in court on Monday in his trial on corruption, bribery and breach of trust charges, a senior member of his Likud Party said a majority of members of the new Knesset would be vote for him to become president. This election must be held between April 9th and June 9th ahead of the expiry of incumbent Reuvin Rivlin’s term on July 9. A Likud source told The Jerusalem Post that most Knesset members would vote for Netanyahu if he decides to become president.
If elected he would, in theory, have a new seven-year term in office which would put prosecutions on hold as Israel’s basic law prohibits charges against a president and perhaps, give him time to evade the charges altogether, as they say, by hook or by crook. Netanyahu would, however, give up policymaking and accept that his main role would be deciding who would form a government following an election. While this is an important role, a president’s other duties are largely ceremonial and bore Netanyahu who loves wheeling-and-dealing on Israel’s fractured political scene. Although his legal troubles could complicate a Netanyahu election to the presidency because he would enter the presidential race while on trial, he is said to be considering such a bid. The high court of justice might have to decide if he could run. Other scenarios involve plea bargains and pardons.
Without Netanyahu, the paper’s informant argued that the Likud would choose who among its Knesset members would be most likely to form a stable Likud-led coalition with other right-leaning parties which refuse to serve under Netanyahu.
Although he remains popular, like Donald Trump in the US with his “base” of followers, Netanyahu, like Trump, faces an influential anti-Netanyahu constituency. Indeed, thousands of protesters have demonstrated outside both the prime minister’s residence and his personal home for months with the object of forcing the Likud to drop him or him to stand down. His detractors have dubbed him the “crime-minister”.
Now for his trial. The Israeli police began investigating him for corruption in 2016 and began to lay charges in 2019.