Photo Credit: Flash 90
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) with Finance Minister Yair Lapid, November 13, 2013.

When Israel’s Police on Tuesday night revealed that Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid is its key witness in file 1000, one of the two cases police have recommended an indictment against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it also, for all intents and purposes, laid out the foundations for the next elections in Israel, which will most likely feature only the two of them as the legitimate candidates to form the next government.

Talk about the law of unintended consequences on steroids.

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The police presented Lapid, Netanyahu’s finance minister at the time, as the man the prime minister asked to advocate for a law that would benefit Israeli billionaire businessman Arnon Milchan and refused. This is now the central drama associated with file 1000, which will inevitably—whether Lapid gets a chance to testify or not—divide the country not into right and left camps, nor about pro-two state solution or against. Israeli voters, including those who would support other parties, will cast their votes for or against Netanyahu, choosing parties that would join his or Lapid’s coalition government.

Channel 2’s Political reporter Amit Segal told Israel Radio Wednesday morning that his new status will hurt rather than help Lapid’s chances to form the next government. “A big part of Lapid’s strategy was that he should not personally tackle Netanyahu,” he explained.

The left in Israel, according to Segal, was not impressed by Lapid’s feeble attempt to act as the leader of an opposition party, which included staying away from the alleged Netanyahu scandals. Now that he is attacking Netanyahu over cigars, he’ll lose points with the left. On the right, where many of his potential voters dwell, he just became the ultimate snitch against a popular sitting prime minister.

“Until now, there was a perception that [Lapid] would be the sane alternative, drawing Netanyahu’s supporters,” Segal said, adding, “But now we realize that 2018 will feature just as violent and ugly a battle, like all the previous battles.”

Chanel 10’s political reporter Reviv Druker Drucker, also speaking to Israel Radio, added that over time Lapid could become the victim rather than the victor of the police recommendations, when it turns out that—Wednesday’s flashy headlines aside—he really isn’t the key witness, but one of many witnesses in one of five files currently pending against the PM.

“Yesterday they (the police) said that Netanyahu convened Knesset members for a meeting on a Friday to ask them whether it was possible to change the Israeli Hayom law. We know that [Likud Minister of Tourism] Yariv Levin was there, he’s the man you discuss laws with (Levin is an attorney by trade). How did the police know about these things? From Members of Knesset. There is a chance that more snitches will emerge, and they may be Likud members,” Druker pointed out. More witnesses who are senior politicians mean a diminishing spotlight on Lapid.

Political reporter Ravit Hecht on Wednesday commented in Haaretz that Netanyahu’ camp was hit, but not too badly. Yes, there was plenty of shock and awe to go around as a result of the police recommendations to indict, but Netanyahu loyalists still reject the still inconceivable suggestion that the PM solicited and received one million shekel in gifted cigars and champagne. “And in the absence of a previously unknown, equally graphic element of corruption, they are capable of remaining in denial,” she suggested.

For now, right-wing leaders, the PM’s potential heirs, don’t have enough of an incentive to go on the attack against the leader, in fact, they could bid farewell to their own careers should they launch a coup that fails.

“In the long run, the police recommendations are an important and significant element in the decline of Benjamin Netanyahu from the stage of Israeli politics,” Hecht wrote, “But in the meantime, it’s Lapid versus Netanyahu.”

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