Opinion

Israel Must Wake Up and Avoid the Fate of Dark Regimes

Ehud Barak
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit at a cabinet meeting in the Knesset, November 1, 2015.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit at a cabinet meeting in the Knesset, November 1, 2015.Credit: Dan Balilty / AP

Israel is moving along like a disintegrating state. Decisions are turned around twice a day. There’s no crisis management, no exit strategy, no budget, no cabinet meetings, no police commissioner, no state prosecutor.

Six months ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israelis to “go out and have a good time” – and disappeared. The people did as they were told, only to discover that their leaders hadn’t prepared for a second wave of the coronavirus. Crisis management wasn’t handed over to defense officials, and there’s no system for breaking the chains of infection.

The virus doesn’t see the spin, or even a million people and their families abandoned to their fate and suffering, with no hope in sight. Our grandchildren will still be paying the price of the inconceivable damage, estimated at about 100 billion shekels ($29 billion). A national lockdown over the High Holy Days will put the final seal on the government and prime minister’s colossal failure. It will greatly exacerbate the damage already caused and could determine the government’s fate.

Under cover of the pandemic and suffering, Netanyahu is leading a kind of coup by the regime. The campaign has been proceeding with considerable success because parts of the public, including public and elected officials, suffer from a collective blindness, a “conception” that makes them refuse to recognize the severe threat to all of us from a haunted defendant driven to blatantly illegitimate recklessness.

Netanyahu has turned slandering anyone in his way into an art. His crude attack on the state prosecution and the judges at the opening of his corruption trial would have shaken the state’s foundations in the past, but the people have gotten used to it and are no longer shocked. Nothing here is original, neither Netanyahu’s methods nor the elites’ blindness. Not even some media outlets’ conformism. Everything has already happened in dark regimes in the past.

Allow me to say it: Fortresses fall when those who are supposed to protect them don’t fight. Now is the time to wake up. Look at Liat Ben Ari, the chief prosecutor in Netanyahu’s trial, who is protected at “level 4,” as judges and prosecutors are in Israeli organized-crime trials. She’s the equivalent of the judges and prosecutors.

And who’s the equivalent of the crime organizations? Who doesn’t understand? The judges in Netanyahu’s trial will be threatened as well. And who can assure us that in the face of threats to their children, family, future and reputation, one or more of them won’t step down? All this could be different.

Where’s the attorney general, whom Netanyahu is tarring and feathering? What’s holding up the investigation into the shares that Netanyahu sold at an enormous profit, his cousin and the false reports to the state comptroller? What about the conflict-of-interest arrangement that the High Court of Justice ordered and Netanyahu refuses to sign? How are the High Court justices sleeping?

Where are Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi of Kahol Lavan? Where are the former Supreme Court justices and heads of the universities’ law departments? Do none of them understand what’s going on here?

In the shadow of the pandemic and the disaster that has struck millions of people, Netanyahu is bringing the whole temple crashing down. To put it another way, he is conducting mafia-style negotiations to be elected president by parliament, or to be pardoned before his trial starts in earnest.

Each of these options, even a plea bargain, which would extract him from the bribery charges and moral turpitude, would stamp the mark of Cain on the forehead of a society and country that gave in to mob-style extortion. This is harsh, but it’s the truth.

Israel will get out of this morass. It will be bruised for years, but it will get over it. As a nation, we’ve passed harder tests before. But I dare say that those who have tried to murder democracy, as well as those who have kept silent, will be remembered in eternal disgrace. Don’t look aside, look in the mirror.

As it says in Deuteronomy, “It is not in heaven .... But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.”