Netanyahu Loses Power, New Israeli Government Formed

Naftali Bennett sworn in as Israel's 13th Prime Minister on 13 Jun 2021. Photo: GPO/Kobi Gideon
Naftali Bennett sworn in as Israel’s 13th Prime Minister on 13 Jun 2021. Photo: GPO/Kobi Gideon

It will be an uphill task for Netanyahu to regain power as he is facing a court trial for serious corruption charges against him.

By Rakesh Raman

Benjamin Netanyahu has lost his 12-year-old position as the Prime Minister (PM) of Israel as the parliament approved on Sunday (June 13) the formation of a new coalition government.

Right-wing nationalist Naftali Bennett has been sworn in as the PM who will lead a coalition of parties with a thin majority of 60-59 in the 120-seat Knesset (Israel’s unicameral parliament).

Bennett thanked President Biden for his warm wishes on the inauguration of the new government, and for his long-standing commitment to the State of Israel and its security.

In a power-sharing deal, Bennett will be PM until September 2023 when he will pass on the power to Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid, for the next two years.

Netanyahu – who will remain the head of the right-wing Likud party – has become leader of the opposition. After defeat, he vowed to come back.

But it will be an uphill task for Netanyahu to regain power as he is facing a court trial for serious corruption charges against him. If Netanyahu is convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison for bribery and a maximum of three years for fraud and breach of trust.

Although massive protests had been happening against Netanyahu as Israelis asked him to resign for his failure to contain coronavirus and amid charges of corruption against him, he had refused to step down. Netanyahu is facing bribery and fraud charges in three different cases and was formally indicted in November 2019.

He is the first sitting PM in Israel’s history to be charged with a crime. In 2019, he was asked to resign from his agriculture, health, social affairs, and diaspora affairs portfolios.

However, the matter of forcing a prime minister to resign due to an indictment has not yet been tested in court. He was officially charged on 28 January 2020. Netanyahu’s criminal trial which was delayed because of Covid-19 pandemic has begun.

VICTORY OF JUDICIAL SYSTEM

Netanyahu’s trial is being hailed as a major victory for Israel’s judicial system which has proved that no one is above the law. This step should serve as a lesson for courts in other countries such as India where courts are apparently complicit in the crimes of corrupt politicians and do not take actions against them. 

The PM of India Narendra Modi, for example, has been facing a number of corruption allegations in cases such as the Rafale deal with French defence group Dassault Aviation, PM-CARES Fund, and others in which it is alleged that corruption worth billions of dollars took place. But the Supreme Court of India dismissed the cases without holding proper investigations.

Similarly, other leaders of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are being accused of rampant corruption. But the Indian courts and anti-corruption organizations such as the Lokpal have turned a blind eye to such corruption cases.

In a recent case, for example, Modi’s colleague and India’s Minister of Transport Nitin Gadkari has been named in a report that reveals the minister is involved in a quid pro quo deal with a Swedish automobile company Scania, which is part of Volkswagen AG’s commercial vehicle arm Traton SE. 

The Caravan news magazine has done a detailed analysis of this case, saying that Gadkari’s denial of connection to Scania bus was an outright lie. But no legal investigation has been carried out against the minister.

A new report released by the U.S. Department of State has revealed that rampant corruption is happening at all levels of government in India. The report adds that the law provides criminal penalties for corruption by government officials. But most government officials frequently engage in corrupt practices with impunity. There were numerous reports of government corruption during the past year, the report says.

Now after Netanyahu’s trial, it is expected that the Indian courts will muster courage to start investigations and prosecution in the cases of alleged corruption against PM Modi and others in his government. Ideally, Modi should have resigned from his position after numerous allegations of corruption. But he is not quitting and rather encouraging more corruption.

By Rakesh Raman, who is a national award-winning journalist and social activist. He is the founder of a humanitarian organization RMN Foundation which is working in diverse areas to help the disadvantaged and distressed people in the society.

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