Even nowadays, when anything goes and there is no value or norm that hasn’t been trampled on, the poison darts thrown Sunday by Yariv Levin at the Jerusalem District Court are a meaningful nadir in Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign to destroy the rule of law in Israel.
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The day before the resumption of the prime minister’s trial, his consigliere, who also serves part-time as the Knesset speaker, delivered a message that verged on a threat to the judicial panel headed by Judge Rivka Friedman Feldman: If the evidentiary hearings are not postponed until after Election Day, March 23, the judges themselves will be guilty of “gross intervention in the elections” and “holding a drumhead court-martial” of the prime minister. The three cases against him “barely belong in the Knesset Ethics Committee,” he argued in a monologue published by the free newspaper Israel Hayom. Therefore, less than 45 days before the election, it’s forbidden to allow a situation where only the prosecution’s testimony is heard, he said.
It has presumably escaped Levin’s memory that Israel has for two years been living through one long election campaign that’s interrupted periodically by voting results, or by temporary governments that are not to the accused’s taste. He has also forgotten the evasive tactics and endless requests for delays by the defendant’s lawyers, which is why we’ve reached this point.
From the moment he was chosen speaker of the parliament (which means he also serves as acting president if necessary), Levin hasn’t neglected his central task in life: To represent, to assist, and to advise Netanyahu in every possible realm – political, diplomatic, legal and public. Chairing the legislature is a side job for him. From the speaker’s chair he calls Benny Gantz to account for daring to disagree with Netanyahu, and disparages his position and the whole Knesset while he’s at it. From the speaker’s chair he lashes out with blood-curdling savagery at judges, prosecutors and the police. From his office he comes and goes to the prime minister’s residence, faction meetings, and diplomatic and political deliberations.
If the legal system bears any responsibility for this ongoing nightmare that is undermining the basis of Israeli democracy, it’s a passive responsibility. It isn’t tough enough with a defendant who is dragging us into endless election campaigns in an effort to accumulate enough political power to enable him to face down the serious charges against him, and not just through a legal defense.
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Parallel to the iron fist Levin was waving at the judges, the defendant posted a devious video in which he ostensibly asked his supporters not to come to the court plaza on Monday. “For your health,” he explained. In the same breath he once again listed the injustices, the delayed justice, the chain of serious crimes that led to his being “hunted.” As if he was hinting to them – you know what I really want you to do.
The above video was posted around an hour after another video from him went up relating to the vaccination campaign. In the accompanying text, Netanyahu wrote: “Don’t believe conspiracy [theories].” A worthy message. But in the later video he blathered again about, “The made-up, false cases” against him. In other words, our left hand doesn’t believe in conspiracies, but the other hand continues to disseminate them with great force and hatred.
The online activity of the Bibi-ist social media accounts – the real ones and the fake ones – has accelerated in recent days, ahead of the trial’s resumption. The menu included all the known garbage about the criminal deep state that is framing the Balfour Street saint, just to overthrow the best prime minister in our history. There’s isn’t much difference between them and Levin and his dispatcher.
Netanyahu is proving once again that he is more interested in using the supporters he has incited than in proving his innocence and avoiding sentence by the usual means of legal advocacy. He waves those supporters, and the unbridled group of politicians at his side and behind him, like a whip against the Israeli legal system. How did he put it in Sunday’s video? “I appreciate each and every one of you.” One cannot help but remember his good friend Donald Trump saying to the rioters on Capitol Hill, “We love you; you’re very special,” while they were calling to hang the vice president and cancel the election results.