Editorial

Netanyahu Above the Law

The branding of minority views and the media as representing the enemies of the people is a phenomenon well known from history

Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds, August 9, 2017.
Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds, August 9, 2017. Ofer Vaknin

Instead of bowing his head to the country’s legal and judicial institutions – the only ones “persecuting” Benjamin Netanyahu at the moment – and letting them do their jobs properly, the prime minister chose to appear before thousands of his supporters at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds and incite people, as is his wont.

While Netanyahu did not aim his inflammatory words directly at the law enforcement agencies, his rabid fulminations against the media and the left were designed to threaten them as well: The adoration of the masses is above the law. Netanyahu, in fact, told the crowd that it won’t be police officers, lawyers or judges who will judge him, it will be his thousands of his supporters. Such behavior has no parallel in a state of laws.

Even without suspicions of criminal activity, it is unthinkable that a prime minister in a state of laws would so recklessly incite against an opposing political camp, and more seriously, against the media. The branding of minority views and the media as representing the enemies of the people is a phenomenon well known from history, one that bodes ill. It fully reveals cracks that are opening at an alarming rate in Israeli democracy and its rule of law, as well as the destructive power of the current prime minister.

Instead of trying to mend these cracks, Netanyahu does all he can to broaden them. This is the conduct of a prime minister trying to flee allegations; someone who in his despair is trying to bring the whole house down.

This was a hate-fomenting election speech, one that fanned raw emotions. It proved what has long been clear: As long as suspicions of wrongdoing hover over Netanyahu’s head, he cannot serve as prime minister. Every word he utters and every step he takes are overshadowed by these suspicions.

Netanyahu should be encouraging law enforcement agencies to do all they can to reveal the truth. A prime minister embroiled in several different cases should be more modest. Instead, he lashes out, pinning the blame on others while damaging vital tissue essential for the state and society’s well-being.

There is no room for such conduct by a publicly elected official, let alone a prime minister, even if a few thousand people blindly cheer him on. Such a prime minister should immediately vacate his seat.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel