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Corruption Alone Won't Lead to Netanyahu's Downfall

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Protests against corruption in Benjamin Netanyahu's government in Tel Aviv, Israel, January 13, 2018.
Protests against corruption in Benjamin Netanyahu's government in Tel Aviv, Israel, January 13, 2018.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

I admire the determined efforts of the many Israelis of conscience who have protested the government corruption represented by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. I hear their cries as they demonstrate across from the home of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, calling on him to hew to an allegiance to truth and justice, as he is obligated by his position and profession.

I too have taken part in the protests on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv, but I have never believed that accusing Mendelblit of perverting justice would make him come to a conclusion of one kind or another on the various police investigations against Netanyahu. I am not privy to his thoughts or the details of these cases. I have not gone deeply into the facts or confirmed them with the suspects.

But my gut feelings of doubt don’t relate only to the protest effort itself but also to the message being left in its wake – that bringing down the right-wing government is dependent on Mendelblit’s decision in the pending criminal investigations. As if otherwise, the government will not fall.

It won’t fall as a result of the harm being done to democracy or the fact that one of those chiefly responsible is the justice minister. It won’t fall due to the racism that is spreading, inspired by the government, or over the efforts to hollow out any attempt at a peace agreement, or even over Shabbat-closure legislation, the so-called Minimarkets Law. As the logic of the public’s protest against corruption would have it, Netanyahu will be brought down only if his corruption is brought into full view.

Leaders of the opposition seem to be only blurting out comments to make headlines while evading substantive issues such as the expulsion of the country’s refugees. After all, in their heart of hearts, they too believe that the collapse of Netanyahu and the right wing can only take place around the issue of corruption and nothing else.

But in fact there is nothing preventing Netanyahu from being removed from power over any issue, among them corruption. (But not over his wife, Sara, whom I’m sick of hearing news about. After all, everyone can see that she is suffering from personal problems. They should have a little pity for her. If I’m right, she is not a legitimate reason to bring down a government.) The question is whether the fight against corruption can create the energy necessary to change the government.

At this point the fight against Netanyahu’s policies – which are endangering the country’s future – are considered irrelevant, and this at none other than a time when policy is more essential than ever because we can no longer rely on American mediation of the peace process. A government looking after the good of its citizenry should have pursued responsible policy rather than clinging to the folly of the president of the United States as an excuse for evading a solution to the conflict with the Palestinians. The occupation, the domination of another people and the desire to annex territory will all determine our own future and that of our children, and not the future of Donald Trump and the United States.

There are those who hope Netanyahu’s fall over corruption will provide an opening for the rise to power of a more responsible government from a diplomatic standpoint. But actually from that perspective, the ongoing anti-Netanyahu demonstrations are dangerous because they create a mirage. Every time news is reported that undermines our certainly that Netanyahu will be indicted, the goal of replacing the current government becomes more elusive.

A real opposition needs to have a genuine vision that is not dependent on changing circumstances. It will certainly encounter resistance, but with credibility, it can prevail when conditions change. On the other hand, equating Netanyahu’s fall with the fight against corruption does not necessarily make a change of government the national and democratic order of the day.

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