Analysis

Behind Justice Minister's Attack on Law Enforcement Lurks a Cornered Netanyahu

Facing probable indictment, Netanyahu is now using everything left in his arsenal

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) raises his hand while sitting Justice Minister Amir Ohana (L) during a meeting of Likud party members at the Knesset in Jerusalem on October 3, 2019
AFP

Posing as a justice warrior – Emile Zola, at least – the man called Israel’s “justice minister” stood before the media on Tuesday, and fired unfriendly fire at the senior prosecutors in his office. It was as if this empty suit, embedded into one of the government’s most sensitive ministerial posts to impose terror on those involved in the investigations into Netanyahu, had joined the protests in Petah Tikva near the attorney general’s home.

The protesters yelled, sometimes they cursed, and he gave his “J’accuse” through pursed lips accompanied by strange facial expressions. The goal was to deter and to scare, and to delegitimize any future decision by the prosecution and the attorney general.

We wouldn’t notice a major difference if the characters changed places: If Ohana were to be waving a sign in the square, and Ran Carmi Buzaglo, organizer of rallies for “Hebron shooter” Elor Azaria, were to be standing at the podium. The minister’s chatter was clichéd, shallow and simplistic, like the average right-wing online commenter. The quotes he cited were biased, partial and thoroughly analyzed on the social networks.

His disconnected thesis regarding the “prosecution within the prosecution” (the well-loved “deep state”) that is deviously planning, fabricating cases and destroying careers wholesale was seasoned with meaningful glances. As a reminder, this is a man who on his first day in the job “didn’t dismiss” the possibility that he too would be faced with a fabricated case, and stated from his lofty legal position that there’s no need to carry out every court ruling.

Ultimately, this is what we’ll remember of him: a pile of nonsense at the beginning of his term, and by the end, despicable verbal takedowns of the people he’s supposed to protect.

It’s obviously not news to say that Ohana is just the front man. A rag doll on a string. And his crazy show yesterday shouldn’t take our attention away from the central figure: Benjamin Netanyahu. The outgoing prime minister, who according to all the leaks will soon be facing trial for a string of criminal offenses, is now firing off what ammunition he has left in the fight for public opinion.

After his war on police investigators was decisively defeated – they faithfully completed their work – he is now activating his sophisticated machine of incitement against the state prosecutor and the attorney general. There is nothing to be deceived about after his faithful appearance. He’s in despair, he’s A-F-R-A-I-D, he understands that the end is closer than ever.

Ohana can declaim until his throat is sore that he was not sent to the press conference by the prime minister, but only “updated him.” Every Likud Knesset member and minister knows who his handler is, whose lordship he approached and because of whom he is a minister – the crown prince, Yair Netanyahu, who made the richness of his language public knowledge on Tuesday night in his questioning by police. There is no curse that the young gentleman spared the investigators. Ohana, with more unctuous language, only echoed the family narrative: “Not Bibi, no investigators.”

The current conflagration was incited against the backdrop of suspected harassment of state witness Shlomo Filber by Netanyahu cronies, and the confiscation of their cellphones. This is a mountain out of a molehill. There is no police investigation that does not entail confiscating the personal computers and phones of the person being investigated.

With all due respect to the “seniority” of Messrs. Topaz Luk, Jonatan Urich and Co., all in all they’re just clerks and not elected officials. Their phones are not protected by any anti-snooping law, as long as the seizure is done with a court order and according to the basic rules.

For some reason, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan decided Tuesday to give his two cents on the evil winds blowing through these parts. He decided that dispatching a truck fixed with loudspeakers to Filber’s street and publicly shaming him was “a marginal protest” that was investigated “in public” and “with intrusive means.” Erdan also turned into an online troll, and he isn’t even counted among the darlings of Balfour Street. In fact, the opposite is true.

These days, coalition negotiations between Kahol Lavan and Likud and between Benny Gantz and Netanyahu are underway. The consensus is that Gantz is ready to serve as No. 2 in the rotation, for certain preconditions. Maybe it’s worth reconsidering, that he should listen to Yair Lapid, Moshe Ya’alon and Gabi Ashkenazi’s warnings. Netanyahu is indeed not expected to change his spots and his style, as the Kahol Lavan chairman would if he were in Netanyahu’s position. And therefore Gantz, as a partner, will also bear responsibility for the great damage, accumulated and compounding, that Netanyahu, some of his ministers and much of his party are inflicting on the country.