The likelihood that Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit will declare Benjamin Netanyahu incapable of carrying out his duties as a result of a conflict of interest between his elected position and his status as a criminal defendant is small to nonexistent.
Mendelblit is not a man of extremes, as his procrastination until he crossed the Rubicon and filed the indictment and his leniency towards Netanyahu have shown. One can hazard a guess that he will also refrain from toppling the government and pushing the political system into an election, particularly since doing so would give Netanyhau electoral fuel to bolster his base, providing confirmation over pro-Bibi incitement about a coup of sorts by the legal system. He doesn’t want to engage in a public fight against Netanyahu because in the public arena, he’s already losing to the prime minister. Floating the idea of the prime minster being incapacitated – to the extent that it has been within Mendelblit’s control – attests more than anything to the terrible pressure that the system is under in the face of Netanyahu’s war to the finish.
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What ever happens in court will happen – if it happens. In the public sphere, the system simply doesn’t know how to act in the face of a bully of such a scale. This isn’t the story of Ehud Olmert or Abraham Hirchson, politicians with combat kills to a certain extent, but with no cult behind them. Netanyahu has at his disposal a fatal combination of a broad base of support, extremely high political skills and a particularly troubling lack of conscience. In a normal world, a leader embroiled in a trial and whose country is the global leader in new coronavirus cases and that is headed for another lockdown would be a political corpse.
But we live in times of reckless insanity. Netanyahu may not have been able to form a government granting him immunity after three election rounds, but his political survival – when even now polls don’t show him sinking below 30 Knesset seats – is incomprehensible.
The people demonstrating outside the Prime Minister’s Residence with others like themselves, believing that, as they had the prior times, that this time it will happen, are simply addicted to an illusion that will meet an even harsher reality later on. In a completely distorted way, the trial is immunizing Netanyahu from COVID-19 and allowing him to remain in power.
Apart from pockets of support from brainwashed supporters whose pathological admiration is their faith, a large portion of Likud voters see and understand Netanyahu’s failure to manage the pandemic. But returning the debate to the legal sphere – while consistently maintaining that the law enforcement agencies are seeking to wipe him out and are acting against the voters’ will – brings them back into the fold.
Threatening to have him disqualified from serving as prime minister, or failing to deny such plans, are a rather pathetic spectacle on Mendelblit’s and the Justice Ministry’s part. It’s like waving a bow without arrows, and it plays into Netanyahu’s hands in the public arena, which he controls in any event.
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During the endless period between the beginning of the investigations and the beginning of the trial – which is also a system failure – Netanyahu managed to subject Likud and other right-wing voters to a powerful, aggressive process, at the end of which even Likud moderates have been convinced of the deep state theory. The opposition to law enforcement agencies has became the cornerstone, supplanting the nation’s greatest enemies.
The legal advisers and prosecutors and judges are not perfect, and as in any system, these organizations have a range of problems. They make mistakes and have also had their victims, but Netanyahu is not one of them. But because of Netanyahu, quite a large segment of Israelis think the office of the attorney general and the state prosecution are organized crime groups that have lost their public mandate to enforce the rule of law. It’s impossible to run a country like that.
Netanyahu is therefore seeking not only to deprive the prosecutors and judges of their public legitimacy and to eliminate his trial. By implication, he is also in practice seeking to eliminate the State of Israel as we know it and establish an empire where he is above the law.