-Analysis-

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is having a bad week.

First, the news last Thursday that the Israeli police is investigating Netanyahu for suspected bribery, fraud and breach of trust. The next day, his former chief of staff, Ari Harow, who is also under investigation, agreed to turn state's witness in two cases involving his former boss. Then on Monday, local media reported that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit could indict Netanyahu's wife, Sara, any day now over her alleged use of vast sums of public money for private expenses.

Netanyahu's four terms as Israel's prime minister haven’t of course been free from scandals. In 2013, Israeli media revealed he had spent more than $2,000 the previous year on ice cream. (His favorite flavors? Vanilla and pistachio.)

If he is indicted, who would be his potential successors?

But now the allegations have turned more bitter: The Likud party leader is accused of receiving gifts from wealthy benefactors as well as trying to strike a deal with the publisher of Yedioth Ahronoth, one of Israel's leading dailies, for positive coverage in exchange for legislative curbs against its main competitor Israel Hayom. As Judy Maltz, a reporter at Israeli newspaper Haaretz, put it: "It sometimes seems that for as long as he’s been in office, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been under investigation for something or other. Never before, though, has he been this close to an indictment."

If he is indicted, who would be his potential successors? Two names have emerged so far. One is Ayelet Shaked, Israel's current justice minister. The other is best known for the comparisons his quick rise has drawn: Avi Gabbay, the new leader of the Labour Party, often described as "Israel's Macron."

Avi Gabbay — Photo: Nimrod Zuk

Indeed, the two men have a lot in common even though Gabbay, at age 50, is more than a decade older than the French president. As Steve Alexandre Jourdin writes in a piece for French daily Le Figaro, Emmanuel Macron and Gabbay are both newcomers to politics who favor cutting red tape; both have jumped dramatically from obscurity to prominence, and both appear to have benefited from the same popular wave of anti-establishment sweeping across the world.

Netanyahu’s multiplying scandals and the inevitable fatigue that accompanies a reign as long as his could provide Gabbay with the similar "alignment of the stars" that benefited Macron. Israel's next general election isn't due until November 2019 but if there’s one area where things can change quickly, it’s politics.


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