Opinion

Cowards in the Face of Netanyahu

Avichai Mendelblit at a conference at Ben-Gurion Airport, September 3, 2019.
Ilan Assayag

The exact depth of the absurdity has revealed itself in recent days. One minute the attorney general is ferociously arguing with the temporary justice minister about the appointment of a temporary replacement, while the next minute he avoids saying whether it’s proper to ask that a government be formed by someone he himself has charged with bribery. Show me the battles a man chooses to wage and I’ll tell you who he is.

The High Court of Justice is supposed to decide on the issue that Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit has passed on to it on the grounds that it’s “theoretical.” In the meantime, this theoretical issue has forced us into a third general election in 11 months, as Likud held a theoretical leadership primary while theoretically wiping supporters of Gideon Sa’ar from the voter rolls.

In response to the petition filed by attorney Dafna Holz-Lechner for a raft of businesspeople and academics, Mendelblit sounded a bit different. “This is certainly a test for the public, and this is certainly the essence of democracy,” he said. “The people choose their representatives, and I think the upcoming election is an important reason not to involve the court in the turmoil.”

In other words, before it was a theoretical issue, and now that it isn’t,  it’s totally superfluous. It’s classic Mendelblit: Every time it’s someone else’s turn to pull his chestnuts out of the fire.

He’s not the only one who’d like the High Court to stay out of it; Kahol Lavan’s Benny Gantz and Ofer Shelah and Labor-Gesher’s Amir Peretz think so, too. In our time, party leaders don’t make such declarations without consulting sheep entrails or the local pollster, and these are apparently hinting that this approach will make it easier to defeat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the March election.

Maybe. But it’s clear that everyone is assuming Netanyahu will run even if the High Court disqualifies him, apparently to the applause from the rotten circus that accompanies him down this slope.

The prime minister practically announced this explicitly with his slogan “Only you will decide.” Forgotten are his ancient calls to Ehud Olmert to resign at the investigation stage and his vote for a bill that would have blocked someone under indictment from running for prime minister.

Now that we’re talking about him, the rules are different, and they’ll be changed again and again until you decide exactly what he wants you to decide. This man who has been accused of miserliness turns out to be a spendthrift when it comes to other people’s money.

Running for prime minister is a man who threatens to collapse the delicate agreements on which the entire democratic system rests, a man who has declared war on this system because it won’t let him evade prosecution. But we haven’t reached this state of affairs because of shameless thieves – we’ll always have them – or because of the opportunists who attach themselves to these thieves and are willing to flush their country down the drain for another few seconds of their career.

We’re in this situation because of the cowards – people like Mendelblit, who had no problem accepting a role as a gatekeeper without growing the requisite backbone. We’re here because for months after the recommendations by the police and the prosecution, the attorney general continued to drag his feet.

And after deciding to file indictments, he didn’t intervene as Netanyahu dragged us into yet another election while using all the power of his status to vilify the legal system that the attorney general is supposed to defend. Mendelblit prefers to stand on the sidelines. Maybe someone else will do the work for him.