Israelis Slam Netanyahu For Scandals, But Trust PM at Ballot Box – Consultant

© AP Photo / Gali TibbonIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with his wife, Sara
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with his wife, Sara - Sputnik International
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's wife, Sara Netanyahu has appeared before a court to begin her trial for fraud and breach of trust. Allegations against the first lady include misuse of state funds. Sputnik has discussed the possible outcome of the trial with Wadie Abunassar, head of the International Center for Consultations in Haifa.

Sputnik: The first lady may be sentenced to spend up to five years behind bars. What are your thoughts on the possible outcome of the trial for the first lady?

Wadie Abunassar: I believe the chances that she would go to prison are very low, although, now she's insisting that she's innocent and she's even refusing to have a plea bargain with the prosecution. I do believe that if the trial will continue she would reach a certain compromise in order to avoid any prison term.

Sputnik: What kind compromises do you think we could expect?

Sara Netanyahu, wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, second left, arrives to a court hearing in a fraud trial against her, at the Magistrate court in Jerusalem, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018 - Sputnik International
Scandal du Jour: Tel Aviv PM Netanyahu’s Wife Sara Begins Trial for Fraud
Wadie Abunassar: I do believe that we can expect a certain deal maybe not in the coming few weeks but I believe in the coming months; but the main question is what will happen in the other cases, because, as you probably know, there are several cases of scandal in which she or her husband are involved.

And there are now some reports that the Attorney General might unify all of these cases against the Netanyahus and this would affect seriously their political future.

Sputnik: What is the public opinion on this? I know there is such thing as trial by public opinion has this been the case regarding the first lady?

Wadie Abunassar: In Israel, we are witnessing a very unique and strange reality. On the one hand, if you go to the street almost every second citizen is criticizing the Netanyahus and is talking about their scandals. On the other hand, the Netanyahus are considered to be the King and Queen of Israel, they are enjoying certain immunity, but when it comes to the ballot box people still trust Netanyahu more than they trust most other Israeli politicians.

Sputnik: Don't trials like this really have a huge effect on their popularity?

Wadie Abunassar: There are two issues which are more important that these trials. The first issue is practically the lack of serious alternatives to Netanyahu in the Israeli political arena. Nowadays it's hard to talk about anyone who is really threatening Netanyahu politically.

READ MORE: Netanyahu Tweets Plans to Meet With Putin

On the other hand, Netanyahu continues to be considered by the vast majority of Israeli Jews as Mr. Security, as the one who is protecting Israel's security and as such it seems that many Israeli Jews are ready to "forgive him" for his scandals as long as he's defending Israel's security.

Sputnik: Sara has also said that she is not guilty, what is your interpretation of what actually took place? There were reports that she was misappropriating funds, that she was using public money to support a lavish lifestyle, that they had hired very expensive chefs, that they had expensive French champagne, Cuban cigars, all of this sort of hedonistic lifestyle at the cost of the Israeli people…

Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) and his wife Sara react to his supporters during an event by his Likud Party in Tel Aviv, Israel August 9, 2017 - Sputnik International
Netanyahu's Wife Suspected of Bribery as Part of Corruption Probe - Reports
Wadie Abunassar: Again, in Israel there a very interesting saying: "Stinky, but legal." And we have to say that Israel, although, being a democratic system it is not really a European liberal democracy. Therefore, we have two main differences in the Israeli system: first, legal — it means as long as the prime minister is not really convicted he's not really obliged to leave the arena. Secondly, the political culture in Israel is a bit forgiving to the prime minister.

It's not like in Western Europe that if a senior politician is "smelling badly" he has to quit. Here it might be an indication that he's powerful. Now, therefore, I do believe that for the vast majority of Israeli Jews they're ready to forgive. Now most people are not questioning if he took or didn't take, most people believe that he took something which he was not supposed to take, he and/or his wife. The question now is if he's allowed to stay in power or not and most Israeli Jews say that he can stay in power.

Sputnik: Is this going to be a jury trial? Who decides this case and what are the chances that there will actually be some influence on the person? To what extent is that person dependent on the prime minister?

Israel's Prime Minister's wife Sara Netanyahu enters the car with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the meeting with French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire at Bercy Economy Ministry, in Paris, Wednesday, June 6, 2018 - Sputnik International
Israeli PM Netanyahu’s Wife Charged With Fraud Over Misuse of Funds
Wadie Abunassar: Interestingly, in Israel the Attorney General, who is considered to be like the senior advisor or legal advisor of the government, is the one who usually decides after getting some kind of evidence or recommendation from the prosecution. Now the Attorney General seems to be hesitant a bit. Some people say because he doesn't want to decide to indict the prime minister and then the prime minister will turn out to be innocent. And it will be very embarrassing for the Attorney General and vice versa.

READ MORE: Netanyahu's Wife Tries to Pick Fight With Top PM's Office Official — Reports

So therefore, we are witnessing some hesitation. Some people say that this is due to complicated files; others say that because the two guys were close associates. You can speculate, but what is sure is that the process is very, very slow and this gives Netanyahu more time not only to remain in power but also to gain more power. And some people do believe that the Attorney General does hope that Israel will go to early elections and that by going to early elections things might change the whole procedure.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Wadie Abunassar and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

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