Israel Is Fudging Justice in the Netanyahu Corruption Cases

Just a few years ago, suspicious developments in Ehud Olmert’s pen collection were considered a reason to investigate the prime minister. Not so with Bibi.

Avichai Mendelblit (right) consults with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a weekly cabinet meeting, September 2015.
Ohad Zwigenberg (Pool)

We must lift the conspiracy of silence around the scandal of criminal suspicions against Benjamin Netanyahu and his family. It can’t go on this way.

What’s happening these days in broad daylight, even if it’s behind closed doors, is a debasement of the rule of law in Israel. A country that isn’t governed by the rule of law probably isn’t a democracy. Every day that goes by and many days have gone by the matter looks more threatening.

A long list of jurists and investigation experts are looking desperately at this story for something unachievable. Their reactions sway between growing amazement and deepening despair.

And we’re not talking about dissidents or radical leftists. They fear that the attorney general and the state prosecutor, who were appointed by the current prime minister and with his direct support, are dragging their feet in handling criminal cases concerning him. This not only harms the effectiveness of the investigation but also shakes our faith in the motivation to carry it through.

There was room for caution and discretion. After all, we’re talking about the prime minister. At a certain stage, there was no longer room. After all, we’re talking about the prime minister. The attorney general didn’t have to announce an inquiry. From the moment he did announce one, it had a lot of significance. This happened on July 10 50 days ago.

According to the Justice Ministry’s announcement, additional preliminary discussions took place before the decision was made to open an inquiry. All this contravened the wording of the law on handling criminal acts, under which if the police are informed of an offense, a full-blown investigation is opened. But an investigation wasn’t opened. Quiet, they’re checking. Or rather, quiet, they’re fudging.

It’s no longer making a joke of the Buzaglo test, by which we question whether a public figure suspected of a crime gets treated like an ordinary citizen. It isn’t even making a joke of the Olmert test.

Just a few years ago, the country shook when details leaked about alleged offenses linked to the previous prime minister, Ehud Olmert. Even suspicious developments in his pen collection were considered a reason for an investigation. Back then there were people who did everything to stir a political, public and legal commotion.

Precisely those people did everything to stir a commotion around Olmert being hastily dragged into an outrageous war with unachievable goals. Oh, the bitter irony. Benjamin Netanyahu is probably the only man in Israel with the energy and resources to get a commission of inquiry established on the 2014 Gaza war and to pen a criminal investigation on the prime minister and his relatives.

What a dream opposition he has. Who’s supposed to break through the barricades so this investigation will be opened? Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, who courts an opening from the government like a sadomasochist fan? Yair Lapid, who declared “I sinned in the personal attacks on Netanyahu” and moved on to fighting the soldiers and former soldiers in Breaking the Silence?

The press, which thundered over the salmonella fiasco and meanwhile communes with the prime minister in his marathon journey of appearances that was spawned to hide the cloud of investigations? The beaten-down and cowered left? Maybe the value-laden and moral right, which wailed about Ariel Sharon and Olmert being handled with kid gloves but is dumbstruck when it comes to Netanyahu?

Destroying and rotting are processes. You get used to them. The writing is on the wall. The previous attorney general got an accused person off in a case that allegedly involved the streaming of millions to the bank accounts of two close associates. Today, this accused person is the defense minister.

Meanwhile, officials at the attorney general’s office are also embarrassed by the findings in the prime-minister’s-residence case. These were put in the police’s hands three months ago and include a recommendation to try Sara Netanyahu on three counts of fraudulent receiving.

Avichai Mendelblit, Mr. Attorney General, when will you decide?