Opinion

Impeachment Envy

U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House in Washington, March 25, 2019.
Manuel Balce Ceneta,AP

During the last few years it’s been hard to find good reasons to be jealous of the United States. It is overflowing with oligarchic corruption, revealing ugly greediness, demonstrating overwhelming stupidity in its choice of president and exhibiting massive doses of obtuseness and racism – in short, hardly an object of envy.

But now a reason has emerged for being green with envy: the impeachment process that has been launched against U.S. President Donald Trump. We’re not simply talking about schadenfreude or rejoicing over the remote chance that this awful man gets removed from his post. It’s envy over the very fact that there is a constitutional impeachment procedure. Because we don’t have one.

Impeachment isn’t exactly “ousting,” which in Hebrew – hadaha – can also mean rinsing. Actually, “rinsing” could be analogous to impeachment. Both involve removing dirt or stains. Both contribute to hygiene and aim to repel pests and other disgusting things. And that’s exactly the process the Israeli political system could use now.

Let’s be precise: Constitutional impeachment is not a criminal procedure. Those who impeach have no authority to punish, other than to remove the impeached individual from his post. Their job is to examine whether someone fulfilling an official position is unworthy of continuing to so, and to decide that the camp to which he belongs must be purified of his presence. To punish him, however, even if he may deserve it, would require criminal prosecution.

And therein lies the great advantage of impeachment: It gives elected officials the authority to disgorge the dross without having to wait until the slowly grinding gears of justice can cleanse them. After all, we are living with daily reminders of how easy it is to delay justice indefinitely, if the candidate for removal has enough funding and some obedient lawyers.

Fortunately enough, at this very moment, when Israel needs impeachment like it needs air to breathe, the system has happened upon a short-term alternative to impeachment; a legal and democratic shortcut to cleansing, with the wave of a hand; a chance to quickly extract the crooked nail stuck in the chair of the prime minister, who is sowing destruction and corruption in his surroundings solely for personal gain in order to be himself extracted from facing justice.

There’s only one way to carry out this Israeli “impeachment”: by setting up a minority government now. Actually, it would be better to call it an ad-hoc government – a government that has one purpose only: to remove Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from his seat. It will be a government that will rely on the votes of anyone who is sick of Netanyahu’s corruption, regardless of their religion, gender, party affiliation or political opinions. A government in which Benny Gantz will dwell with Ayman Odeh, and Avigdor Lieberman shall lay down with Meretz. All that’s needed is a measured dose of political courage and the ability to (temporarily) set aside tactical considerations. Then, immediately after this mission is accomplished, it can dissipate, with each person returning to his camp and flag, and resuming the struggle.

But don’t be surprised if Netanyahu’s departure leads to a greater change – such as a change in the Likud leadership. A recalculation of the route being taken by other parties, a small flutter of financial worry in the bellies of the ultra-Orthodox. And who knows? Perhaps this minority government will last longer than expected.

And if it doesn’t? So, we’ll have another election. We’re on the way to one anyway. And in the next state that we establish, after our cyclical return from exile, we’ll make sure that our constitution includes an impeachment process, as is proper in any civilized country.