Israeli protesters raise a sign in Hebrew 'Mandelblit, let us decide, we came from Mahalot to protest', as they demonstrate against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Bibi’s Faustian Bargain

With Binyamin Netanyahu facing allegations of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, the fate of a man synonymous with modern Israeli politics is in question. But as the prime minister's friends and foes consider their own prospects, it is increasingly clear that the cost of Netanyahu's political survival could be steep.

JERUSALEM – On February 13, after an investigation that began in 2016, the Israeli police recommended charges against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. Now, the spotlight is on Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who must decide whether to issue a formal indictment against a man who has become virtually synonymous with modern Israeli politics.

If the current government survives until the summer of 2019, Netanyahu will become Israel’s longest-serving leader. At the moment, it is far from certain he will last until then.

Since returning as prime minister in March 2009 – he first held the job from June 1996 until July 1999 – Netanyahu has overseen unprecedented economic growth and a series of diplomatic feats. At the same time, extreme divisiveness has become a political hallmark of his tenure, and the drumbeat of potential war in Syria, Lebanon, and Gaza has grown deafening. How Netanyahu’s political predicament plays out will dictate which narrative prevails.