THE forthcoming Israeli elections are being contested on two levels — first, of course, is which party will win but secondly, and more important, is the question of who may replace Benjamin Netanyahu.
There are three criminal investigations open against him and the police and state prosecutor have recommended indicting him on all — or some.
The timing of any possible indictment is important. It seems fairly certain that if an announcement is made, it will be in the next few weeks (i.e. at least a month before the elections) or after the poll.
It would not be appropriate for any indictment to come before the elections. But whenever it may be made, it will be a bombshell.
It seems very unlikely that a prime minister could stand in the dock day after day while running the country. I would expect that if indicted, Bibi will resign, or the Knesset will demand a replacement, or that a legal challenge would succeed.
So the big question is who will be next. If the right-wing bloc wins the election, then the choices really are Lieberman, Cachlon, Saar or Bennett.
If Netanyahu goes, he will have a great say in determining his successor. So in order for that to happen, each candidate has to show loyalty to Netanyahu and carry on stating that he should remain.
Though Bibi and the Likud are riding high in the opinion polls, there is a lot of time left.
Most voters, it has been shown, do not believe an indicted Netanyahu should carry on. So it might be that a majority would vote for a centre bloc to avoid the confusion of an indicted prime minister.
In that case, the names to watch are ex-chief of staff Benny Gantz and Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid. Nobody (except possibly himself) really takes Labour leader Avi Gabbai as a serious possibility — his party is divided and collapsing in the polls.
For those who enjoy watching political dramas, I doubt that author Michael Dobbs could do any better than this.
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