The Two Things That Will Determine Netanyahu’s Fate

With the Israeli police recommending that he be indicted, the prime minister is entering a major battle for political survival.

.. Twenty-one years ago, in early 1997, the Israeli police announced its recommendation that Benjamin Netanyahu, then a 47-year-old first-term prime minister, be criminally indicted for breach of public trust.

.. The attorney general in 1997—a well respected jurist beyond suspicion—decided that the case was too weak for trial. Nor did the police recommendation alone cause Netanyahu’s coalition partners to leave the government or go to new elections. And so, the 1997 police recommendation notwithstanding, Netanyahu survived politically and continued to serve until 1999, when he was defeated in the ballot box.

 .. he is entering a major, perhaps final battle for political survival.
.. Case 1000, involves a longstanding Netanyahu household practice of receiving regular gifts from a small set of multi-millionaires, some with business interests in Israel.
.. “Receiving gifts from friends is not forbidden” is the Netanyahu public defense.
.. the case reflects the widespread perception that the Netanyahu family enjoys the good life just a little too much for public servants, and often disregards norms and perhaps even the law in pursuit of perks. Netanyahu, in this regard, ushered in an age of leaders who didn’t espouse the modest, even austere image of the early-day Israeli leaders.  

.. Case 2000, involves the media, and it is in many ways far more troubling. Netanyahu has been media-focused and media-savvy, more than any other Israeli leader.
.. he Madrid peace conference of 1991. He was armed with perfect English, a baritone voice, and an American style of speaking, replete with well-crafted sound-bites, visual gimmicks, and—a novelty in 1990s Israel—an interest in the minutiae of interviews: how to apply makeup and which camera angle to choose for best effect.
.. He seemed then to be part of a wave of young, attractive American-style politicians around the democratic world, such as Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, and Gerhard Schroder, even if ideologically he was much closer to Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Helmut Kohl.
.. Over the decades, he has paid a great deal of attention to message management, and, increasingly, to management of the media itself.
.. In 2007, however, something dramatic changed. The main newspapers in Israel suddenly found themselves outmatched in their own game: a new publication, Israel Hayom (“Israel Today”) appeared on Israeli streets. Rather than a hostile tone toward Netanyahu, Israel Hayom (also known as the Bibi-paper) propagated an adoring tone toward Netanyahu and his family, and a hostile one toward Olmert, the center, and the left. Israel Hayom’s cover price was unbeatable: 0.00 shekels.
.. No one suffered more from the entry of Israel Hayom than the old papers, chief among them Yediot Ahronot. The Israeli public took up the free publication; when Netanyahu became prime minister Israel Hayom also adopted a positive, optimistic tone about the direction of the country, and all this at no financial cost to the reader. It became the mostly widely read publication, dethroning Yediot Ahronot after many years, and causing havoc throughout the press scene.
.. Case 2000 surrounds a shocking revelation: a tape recording unearthed in a separate investigation of apparent negotiations between Netanyahu and the publisher of Yediot Ahronot. The purported deal was a detente between the two warring factions: the publisher, Noni Mozes, would provide more favorable coverage for Netanyahu in his paper, and Netanyahu would limit the circulation of the competitor Israel Hayom to weekdays, leaving the lucrative weekend editions to Yediot Ahronot.
.. Netanyahu has claimed that he was just bluffing; there was no real quid-pro-quo, merely a proof of precisely what Netanyahu had been saying all these years: The media moguls were out to get him
.. the deal never came to fruition
.. the police claim, Netanyahu was not bluffing; he convened parliamentarians to see what legislation might be promoted to limit his own ally publication and looked into implementing the deal. He was, they claim, conspiring to use his official position to the benefit of a commercial entity in exchange for a political favor. If a correct interpretation of the facts, that is bribery.

.. Netanyahu has now publicly acknowledged that the “Israel Hayom bill” (not Iran, or the Palestinians, or economic affairs) was the reason for calling the elections
.. Some members of his own party would hope that he resign without an election, meaning that one of them
would replace him temporarily.
.. He may point to the letter of Israeli law, which does not require a prime minister’s resignation until conviction (despite precedent to the contrary
.. Israelis are correct, however, that the string of corruption cases in the past two decades have brought a new a level of shamelessness to Israeli political life.
.. If his term ends in the coming year it will be because he is forced to: most likely his partners eventually force him to resign, or the voting public opts for someone holding a broom.

After Trump Seeks to Block Book, Publisher Hastens Release

Through a long career in real estate and entertainment, Mr. Trump has repeatedly threatened lawsuits against authors, journalists and others who angered him, but often has not followed through, and it was unclear whether he would in this case.

.. Mr. Wolff did not reply to a request for comment, but on Wednesday night said by email that he was “wholly comfortable with my numerous sources.”

.. Most presidents have avoided legal confrontations over unflattering publications out of fear of giving them more publicity and promoting sales, but it is not unprecedented. Former President Jimmy Carter, shortly after leaving the White House, threatened to sue The Washington Post over a gossip column item asserting that his administration had bugged Blair House, the government guest quarters, while Nancy and Ronald Reagan stayed there before the 1981 inauguration. The Post retracted the item and Mr. Carter dropped the matter.

.. Charles J. Harder, the president’s lawyer, has represented Mrs. Trump and other high-profile figures in cases against the news media. Based in Beverly Hills, Calif., he won Hulk Hogan’s landmark invasion-of-privacy case against Gawker Media and until recently represented Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood mogul.

.. Mr. Harder threatened to sue The New York Times over an article documenting sexual harassment by Mr. Weinstein. But Mr. Harder no longer represents Mr. Weinstein, and no lawsuit has been filed.

.. In an author’s note, Mr. Wolff writes that many of the accounts that he collected “are in conflict with one another; many, in Trumpian fashion, are baldly untrue.” He said he sometimes “let the players offer their versions, in turn allowing the reader to judge them,”

.. Mr. Harder cited no specific statements that he judged untrue.

.. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain denied suggesting to Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, that British intelligence might have spied on Mr. Trump’s campaign.

.. Asked on Thursday for examples of potentially libelous inaccuracies in the book, Ms. Sanders cited only an anecdote in which Mr. Trump seemed not to recognize the name of former Speaker John A. Boehner

Tony Blair Says the Left Has Lost Its Way

Blair, the onetime wunderkind of British politics who led the Labour Party and the country for 10 years from 1997 to 2007 preaching a Clintonian centrism he called the “Third Way” only to see his tenure end amid recriminations over his support for Republican George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, still punches hardest when he’s hitting to his left. In our conversation, he bashed today’s liberal leaders in both countries for “solutions that look back to the ‘60s or ‘70s” and for preaching a form of feel-good “identity politics” that will flop as an answer to Trumpism.

.. “You can go for what are very good-sounding things like, we’re going to abolish tuition fees, or we’re going to give you this for free, or that for free,” he says, calling out both America’s Democrats and Britain’s Labourites. “In today’s world, and in particular, in the absence of a vigorous change-making center, that’s very attractive. But I don’t think it’s answer, and I’m not sure it would win an election. Maybe it would, but even if it did, it would worry me. Because in the end, I think a lot of these solutions aren’t really progressive. And they don’t correspond to what the problem of the modern world is.”

But it’s Blair’s comments about Trump as much as his disdain for Sanders and Corbyn that are likely to infuriate many U.S liberals.

Just a few months ago, Blair stirred outrage when he told his former communications chief Alastair Campbell in a British GQ interview that Democrats “just go mental with you” at even the suggestion of working with Trump and that the divisive U.S. president who has spoken of the mainstream press as “enemies of the people” may have a point about his “polarized and partisan” media coverage.

Blair did not back away from that in our interview, saying it’s a mistake “just to go in flat-out opposition” to Trump, that the president may well end up as a traditional Republican at least on foreign policy and arguing Trump has “actually been helpful” in the Middle East, where Blair has served as a mediator for the quartet of Western powers trying to achieve a long-elusive peace settlement.

.. When we talk, Blair claims to be unfazed by the flap, blaming the fury on “right-wing media in the U.K. that’s controlled” by a bunch of “old men who are in favor of Brexit” and choosing to ignore the fact that the left is none too happy with him either. “Nowadays,” he says, “if you step out at all into any area of public controversy, you’re going to get a bucket of something unpleasant poured over you, so you get used to that.”

.. But it’s almost impossible to overstate the extent to which Blair is excoriated across the British political spectrum these days—“his reputational currency has fallen as his bank account has swelled” over the past decade, says his old colleague Campbell, acknowledging not just Blair’s political unpopularity but the opprobrium he’s gotten for what’s perceived as buck-raking from advising autocrats from the Persian Gulf to Kazakhstan.

Even those who don’t outright condemn Blair see him as a man without a party, tilting at Brexit without being able to propose a realistic scenario by which it could be overturned, given that neither Labour nor the ruling Conservative Party is willing to officially campaign on undoing it. “Brits hate him. They really hate him,” says one American who spent the better part of two decades living in London. “His international stature, even now, masks how low is the esteem in which he is held back home.”

.. Blair has remained well regarded here, and tends to get positive notices from centrist-minded American commentators who see him as a rare liberal willing to take a moment away from Trump-bashing and Brexit-bemoaning to trash the rising populism and “riding the politics of fear,” as he put it to me, that is now increasingly seen as the only acceptable response to angry voting publics in both countries.

.. Blair acknowledges that he and others in the Clintonian middle opened the way for this challenge—they became “complacent” in power, he says, entitled “managers of the status quo”—though as with Clinton there are many critics who feel he is hardly introspective enough about his own role in the current mess.

.. Blair somewhat testily rejected the premise of my question, reminding me that he had one of modern Britain’s longest winning streaks before going on to blame much of his current plight on the political polarization of the British media. “One should never exaggerate this,” he says. “I mean, I did win three elections in the U.K.”

.. there’s no doubt that Blair’s re-emergence as among the most outspoken anti-populist leaders on either side of the Atlantic is a striking contrast to the two American presidents with whom he partnered so closely over his decade as prime minister.