Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu hammered away at his theme that the corruption investigations targeting his government are politically motivated, telling a Likud-organized rally in Tel Aviv on Wednesday night that he is the victim of a "witch hunt" mounted by the media and the left.
"The media has mobilised in an obsessive campaign against my family and me, but you the voters are the ones really targeted", he said to applause at a rally of his right-wing Likud party in Tel Aviv. But the gathering is also a test of Netanyahu's popularity and control over his party.
Israeli authorities are now investigating several corruption cases against Netanyahu.
Netanyahu, the second-longest serving leader in Israeli history, is engulfed in a series of scandals relating to alleged financial misdeeds and supposed illicit ties to executives in media, worldwide business and Hollywood.
A black curtain went up a few months ago near Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's official residence in Jerusalem's leafy Balfour Street.
Asked if they believed Netanyahu's assertion of innocence of all the allegations against him, 51 percent said no, 27 percent said yes, and 22 percent said they didn't know.
"My friends, they too will be disappointed, because it won't happen", he said. After criticism and threats from Coalition Chairman MK David Bitan, more and more of Likud's senior ministers have begun defending their party leader in the media.
Netanyahu, who last won an election in 2015, has weathered several scandals and police inquiries during his 11 years in office. Israeli media said this week that the attorney-general was poised to issue an indictment against her.
He added that both Gideon Sa'ar and Gilad Erdan are aware that if they want to replace Netayahu some day, they have to support him today because if they don't do so, the people will not be kind to them. That means his short-term future will likely depend on whether he can maintain political and public backing.
"There is more chance that he will be indicted than that he won't", Hebrew University political scientist Abraham Diskin told The AJN.
"Netanyahu is tightening the bolts and exerting his authority", he said. "He's conveying that he is still powerful and everyone should keep their knives holstered".
This is the case involving Yediot Achronot publisher Arnon Mozes, in which Netanyahu allegedly made a deal with Yediot - obtaining favorable media coverage in exchange for turning his back on supporter Yisrael Hayom, which is published and owned by major Netanyahu backer Sheldon Adelson.
According to reports, Ari Harow has already been supplying investigators with information regarding two of the ongoing investigations.
A third probe, "File 3000" reportedly concerns a possible conflict of interests involving the Israeli government buying submarines from Germany.