Analysis |

Netanyahu's Party Can’t Fathom Politicians Aren’t Above the Law

Coalition whip Miki Zohar fails to grasp why the State Prosecutor’s Office seems to believe that an elected official can't threaten the attorney general, however close he may be to royalty

Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter
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Left to right: Coalition whip Miki Zoar, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister David Amsalem during a Likud faction meeting in Jerusalem, 2018.
Left to right: Coalition whip Miki Zoar, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister David Amsalem during a Likud faction meeting in Jerusalem, 2018. Credit: Emil Salman
Yossi Verter
Yossi Verter

What a bunch of ingrates the police are! What a nasty State Prosecutor’s Office governs us! Right after MK Makhlouf Miki Zohar underwent a miraculous transformation and became as formal and stately as the Queen of England, the “Deep State” headquartered on Salah al-Din Street decided to take vengeance on him and summon him for questioning.

The suspicion: threatening blackmail. The background: the appalling radio interview in which he threatened that if Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit did not resign and cancel the indictments against Netanyahu, embarrassing “recordings will surface” and “the ground will shake.” Any novice law student, let alone a brilliant mind like Zohar, would call this what it is: a thuggish threat against the head of the law enforcement system.

Haaretz podcast: 'Trump unbound' is Netahyahu's worst nightmareCredit: Haaretz

Zohar’s repentance came immediately after he realized that he’d gotten himself in trouble. The shouting phone call he received from the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also helped him discover his hidden inner light. He issued a lame clarification in the hope that the dust would quickly settle. But for some reason the State Prosecutor’s Office seems to believe that an elected official is not above the law, however close he may be to royalty.

If not for parliamentary immunity, police officers would surely have shown up at his door an hour after the broadcast. It’s almost certain that no charges will come out of this, but the summons for questioning itself sent a vital message: Representatives of the ruling party (in the spirit of the commander, the commander’s wife and their son) long ago crossed the red line that separates the parliamentary freedom to criticize and exercise oversight of the branches of government, and sowing fear, stoking unbridled incitement and making explicit threats against those who displease them.

The cynicism of the prime minister’s emissaries was working overtime Thursday: They cried “freedom of expression”; all while the Netanyahu family’s lawyers make numerous complaints to the police every week about Facebook posts or tweets. Dozens have already been investigated, most of them were totally nonsensical. But Miki Zohar mustn’t be touched.

Minister Dudi Amsalem cannot be summoned for questioning over his obscene language in the Knesset. That’s just a matter of upbringing. Nor can Shlomo Karhi be hauled in over the stupid bills he proposes, or Osnat Mark for her crudeness. But blackmail with threats must be addressed by legal means. Turning a blind eye would be a breach of duty by the investigators.

The suspect’s response (in a post that alternated between self-righteousness and whining) is quite illuminating. With an incredible lack of self-awareness, he accuses the state prosecution of everything he himself engages in under cover of immunity: “silencing” opponents; being a “danger to democracy”; an attempt at “intimidation”; “crossing the line” and, of course, of being like the “darkest regimes.” All of these superlatives couldn’t be more apt for Zohar himself.

And not only for him, but for all those who are indignantly closing ranks around him, especially Minister of Balfour Security Amir Ohana, the man who was dispatched by the one accused of bribery, fraud and breach of trust to sow fear and demoralize the Israel Police. “A badge of shame, a disgrace,” he said, stabbing in the back the system of which he is a part and which he is turning rotten.

That was followed by a statement from the Knesset speaker, supposedly on behalf of the parliament: “[An] MK is being questioned over something he said in the framework of his public position,” Yariv Levin protested. If the honorable speaker would be so kind as to open a law book or the Knesset statutes and point out the section that says immunity is meant to protect a parliamentarian who threatens the attorney general, we would love to see it. On Zoom is fine too.

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