Like the biblical Samson, who brought down the house “upon all the people that were therein,” Benjamin Netanyahu slowly but surely cooked up his real defense strategy for the dramatic day when, for the first time in Israeli history, a sitting prime minister was indicted for bribery: destroying the public’s trust in the judicial and law enforcement systems.
The media, the police, the witnesses who turned state’s evidence, the prosecution, the attorney general and soon the judges who will hear the cases – they all came in for slander and for both generalized and personal attacks at the hands of the prime minister, his family, advisers and admirers.
Regrettably, Israel has had leaders who have undergone investigations, indictments and even convictions. But none was as effective in this battle as Netanyahu. Everything has been done consistently, thoroughly, to undermine the trust in the various gatekeepers in anticipation of the final day of judgment, when “there will be nothing because there is nothing” might suddenly be replaced by there actually being quite a lot.
This metaphorical Iron Dome of Netanyahu’s, which is destroying the house together with all its inhabitants, has of course not ended with the indictment; the situation has only worsened. Netanyahu began his speech in response to the indictment by paying brief lip service to his “great respect for the judicial authorities in Israel.” But immediately thereafter, the gates of hell opened up with one huge “but,” and the usual tune: The process against him was “contaminated,” “biased” and “tainted with extraneous considerations.”
This is a “coup d’etat” aimed at “bringing down a prime minister from the right.” And the climax, of course: “The time has come to investigate the investigators.” No less. And this is the man who said he “respects the police and the prosecutors.” Sure he does.
The result, as we have seen in previous episodes in Israeli history, if never before at this magnitude, is battalions of staunch devotees who will not under any circumstances accept the word of the authorities regarding the various cases. He has completely persuaded them that the entire system, including all of its officials, is fundamentally tainted with corruption and political bias.
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All the cases, they believe, were frame-ups, directed for the first time at this specific prime minister after the forces of darkness were unable to vanquish him in the democratic arena. Many of them also say now that they will continue to support Netanyahu in office until his final conviction. And many of them will not believe in that, either. But then, regretfully for them, there really will be nothing more to do.
The indictment and the detailed statement by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit changed nothing at all about the way they see the entire system. In fact, none of the true believers on either side of the battle will ever let reality confuse them. As is the way in this era of social media, everyone has reached this stage entrenched in their opinions.
The people whose malleable opinions are often influenced are in the moderate, silent majority, which is less activist and does not take to the barricades, symbolically speaking, for any matter of principle.
Out of all of these there is one group, not large, but influential, that could change the trend. The voters of the religious Zionist parties, who are uncomfortable with the indictments against Netanyahu and his obviously unstatesmanlike conduct but want a “strong” right-wing leader who will take advantage of the sympathetic rule of suspect No. 1 in the United States, President Donald Trump.
They could have chosen differently. They don’t necessarily follow the talking points of Likud. But so far, most of them proved they clearly prefer the future of the settlements over the future of shared confidence in the institutions without which we have no state at all.