Israeli Writers Call on President, Judiciary to Declare Netanyahu Unfit for Office

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the first hearing of his criminal trial at the Jerusalem District Court, May 24, 2020.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the first hearing of his criminal trial at the Jerusalem District Court, May 24, 2020.Credit: Amit Shabi

More than 60 authors, playwrights and cultural and educational figures signed an open letter to Israel's executive, judicial and security leaders over the weekend requesting that Prime Minister Netanyahu be declared unfit for his position and immediately removed from office.

The letter, addressed to President Reuven Rivlin, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, Supreme Court President Esther Hayut and Shin Bet security service Chief Nadav Argaman, was the initiative of Prime Minister's Prize-winning author Ilan Sheinfeld. It says that Netanyahu's attacks on law enforcement authorities, the courts and the Shin Bet have intensified recently, culminating in a decision to impose a total lockdown, in contradiction to the positions of cabinet members, the coronavirus czar and senior Treasury officials.

“Apparently, he has one objective – to break the protests against him” the letter reads. Its signatories include playwrights Motti Lerner, Hillel Mittelpunkt and Yehoshua Sobol, and authors Yehudit Katzir and Alona Kimhi.

The prime minister and his allies have attempted to curb the anti-Netanyahu protests, which have taken place regularly outside the premier's official Jerusalem residence, as part of a stricter lockdown which went into effect on Friday afternoon. But the Knesset failed to pass the amendment to the coronavirus law that targeted protests specifically.

“We, Israeli authors, screenwriters and playwrights, watch in horror the way in which the accused persistently works, with sophistication and deliberation, to demolish law enforcement, legal and juridical institutions, in an attempt to evade his trial. We are also aware of his efforts to prepare an escape hatch for himself at the presidential residence, by disposing of a bill that would prevent a person charged with criminal wrongdoing from serving in this lofty position,” says the letter.

“The conduct of the accused and his associates, from the day he was indicted and up to this point, attests like a thousand witnesses that this person is no longer fit to serve as the head of Israel’s government, and that conditions have been met for issuing a legal opinion on your behalf, stating that he is essentially incapacitated from fulfilling his role.

"We see in you the last hurdle standing before the defendant as he does everything he can to shatter Israel’s democratic institutions. Every day he continues in his role brings him and Israel closer to a disaster, the likes of which we have never seen, and hopefully never will. We therefor urge you to muster your courage and declare the defendant to be in a state of incapacitation regarding his role as prime minister of Israel.”

Earlier this month, Mendelblit held consultations regarding whether the prime minister should be disqualified, because of what the attorney general sees as Netanyahu's use of the office for his personal benefit as a defendant in three corruption cases.

At a conference of Israel’s Bar Association, Mendelblit said Netanyahu does not need to step aside as prime minster, technically speaking, as the timetable of his trial does not require him to spend much time in court.

Mendelblit did not address disqualifying Netanyahu on principle, which would stem from the prime minister's attempts to publically tarnish and harm decision-makers overseeing his case, or to sabotage the legal proceedings.

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