Even now, Benny Gantz is to blame. He’s to blame for having responded too temperately to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s assaults on the legal system. According to the radical left, he should have slammed Netanyahu and then resigned and gone home.
That, they think, would have definitively destroyed the unity government and led us into a fourth election coupled with a civil war, and the left would have won big. Meretz chairman Nitzan Horowitz would be prime minister, Labor chairman Amir Peretz would be finance minister and salvation would be nigh.
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To the radical left, Gantz is a traitor who put Netanyahu in power for free. Just look at how accurate their prophecies were. They said Netanyahu was pulling one over on Gantz and there was no chance he’d sign an agreement on a parity government; after all, Gantz commands only 19 Knesset seats compared to Netanyahu’s 54. But Netanyahu signed, and Gantz even got veto power.
Thanks to the unity government, there’s no law giving the prime minister immunity from prosecution, no law allowing the Knesset to override the Supreme Court, no parliamentary immunity for Netanyahu and no territorial annexation; the Yamina party isn’t in the government and Amir Ohana isn’t justice minister. But all that is worth nothing to the radical left.
And what will happen in another 18 months when Netanyahu leaves office? Nothing. Even that will be decisive proof of Gantz’s failure.
Last week, Rogel Alpher wrote, “The old norms don’t apply to Netanyahu ... He has a choice, and he can simply not show up for his trial, because what would they do to him? Netanyahu is above the law. That’s a fact.” (Haaretz in Hebrew, May 20).
He’s above the law? The only fact is that Netanyahu showed up in court, rose when the judges entered the room, sat down after they did and listened to the session like any ordinary person.
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Just how greatly the old norms do apply and how strong and solid our law enforcement and justice systems are can actually be seen from Netanyahu’s hysterical, inflammatory speech. He understood then, a moment before he entered the courtroom, that at the end of the process, a small gray cell with a strong aroma of Lysol awaited him at Ma’asiyahu Prison.
It drove him mad. He knows that the mills of our justice system grind slowly, but they do grind. That’s why he went crazy.
Fear of prison made him shoot everything he had at every possible target, from former Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich through Roni Ritman, the police officer who led the investigation against him, to Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit. But the truth is, this is a rearguard action that’s foredoomed to fail.
Alsheich and Ritman already won when they recommended indicting him. And Mendelblit won when an indictment on serious charges was filed. That’s also why Mendelblit responded calmly to Netanyahu’s smears. He displayed a victor’s generosity.
Nevertheless, it’s true to say that Mendelblit is in real danger. Netanyahu’s accusations against him were so extreme that they reminded me of his campaign of incitement against former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Someone might well understand Netanyahu’s words as a call to action, and it won’t matter that afterward, he’ll claim he never said it and never intended it.
After all, we remember what happened here 25 years ago, when Rabin was assassinated. Therefore, the security services must beef up security around Mendelblit.
It’s also clear that the trial judges are next in line. The attacks on them will start the moment some minor decision of theirs displeases Netanyahu. But that won’t help him, either. Our justice system is strong and independent, and it will withstand the attack.
If Netanyahu had believed in his own innocence, he wouldn’t have gone crazy like that in his speech. But because he knows how difficult his legal situation is, he tried to move the trial to the arena of politics and emotions.
He claimed his whole Likud party and the entire right would be on trial with him, but that is obvious nonsense. They aren’t guilty of taking bribes or committing fraud. Nor will this help him in court. Only the evidence will matter, and it is very strong.
The bottom line is that Netanyahu has lost. Despite his battery of lawyers and the mobilization by politicians, he didn’t manage to prevent the indictment from being submitted. The fact is that he was put on trial this week on charges of bribery and fraud.
On Sunday, we saw the beginning of the end. The train has left the station, and even though Netanyahu will try to sabotage it and slow its journey, it will keep moving. And eventually, it will reach its goal – doing justice.