Corruption and leaders with moral flaws will always exist, both in Israel and abroad. But there has never been anything like this – a prime minister who incites against the institutions of his own country; a prime minister who accuses the police and prosecution of criminal intent and actions, of fabricating cases in order to destroy him politically. And he does all this just because they dared investigate him and put him on trial.
If we take these claims seriously, we can’t avoid asking one honest question: If these agencies are so corrupt, led by villains who would stop at nothing to “fabricate cases,” then where has the prime minister – aka Benjamin Netanyahu – been for the past decade? How did he ever appoint them, and why did he change his mind about them so drastically only when they started investigating him like any ordinary person?
Netanyahu never addresses these contradictions, because they weaken him. Instead, he makes a lot of noise. An atmosphere of chaos – rumors, half-truths, massive mudslinging – drowns out this simple logic.
Just before his trial began Sunday, the prime minister accused state agencies and their leaders of criminal behavior; after all, fabricated cases, if they were really fabricated, are serious crimes. When he mentioned in his speech certain senior law enforcement officials – above all former Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit – he cited “weak points” that paint them as dishonest.
There’s no doubt this is an ugly tactic in a dirty game, but Netanyahu, who is married to a psychologist, surely knows that one of the first terms learned by every fledgling psychology student is projection. To protect themselves, people project onto others attributes, behaviors, motives and other negative traits drawn from the basements of their own personalities. In Netanyahu’s world, it’s reasonable to believe that the attorney general was indicting him because of extortion.
Netanyahu is convinced that a huge injustice has been done to him, and in recent months he has compared himself to Alfred Dreyfus, the Jewish officer thrown out of the French army and imprisoned due to a false accusation. (Maybe this affair attracts him in part because of its “happy” ending.)
Obviously, it’s his right to feel this way and even to argue that he’s innocent. That’s one reason the High Court of Justice was right not to disqualify him from serving as prime minister even before his trial began.
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But the right to fight for your innocence is completely different from a shocking attack on your investigators and prosecutors. Netanyahu has tried to intimidate public servants and has combed their pasts for skeletons in order to launch character assassination.
And he did this – what a coincidence – a short time before his trial. Anyone who does this is committing a form of violence that says a lot more about him than them.
Netanyahu’s actions since the cases began are at least as serious as what is described in the indictment. They join his previous crimes of incitement against different groups in Israeli society, and in the simplest and clearest way show how dangerous he is – a man without inhibition lacking a conscience.
Ministers and Knesset members surrounded him like guard dogs wearing masks – some, such as Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, are supposed to be responsible for institutions enforcing the law. They stole the show in a single frame. They were accompanying their gang leader, and their entire commitment was to him and only him – including Tzachi Hangebi, who hid in the back and a few days ago was awarded the post of minister of nothing.
We don’t need to be bothered about them; none of them will lead anything after the Netanyahu era ends – not Likud and not any other body. People who sentence themselves to be slaves will remain slaves until their dying day.
But there’s definitely room to worry, at least in the short term, about the well-being of Netanyahu’s prosecutors, the attorney general and the judges in his trial. The fact that some of them are being harassed and need bodyguards testifies that Israel has become a country with a mafia-like culture.
The only way to defend against bullies is to stick to the straight path. Inside the modest courtroom of the Jerusalem District Court, Netanyahu looked into the camera and waited until the last photographer left before he sat down on the defendant’s bench; he didn’t want them to photograph him there. In real life, beyond all the noise that this man and his gang are making, he sure is sitting in the dock.