Likud Lawmaker Assaults Democracy in Rabin Comparison

Miki Zohar’s conspiracy theory is nothing less than an all-out challenge to the rule of law in Israel

MK Miki Zohar in a Knesset committee meeting, Jerusalem, February 2, 2018
Olivier Fitoussi

The chairman of the Knesset House Committee, Likud MK Miki Zohar, murdered the murder of Yitzhak Rabin. “What happened in 1995 was as serious as what’s going on today. What they are doing to Bibi Netanyahu, except for taking away his soul or life ... It is literally murder,” declared Zohar in an interview with Radio Haifa last week.

“I’m comparing the Rabin murder to what they are doing to the prime minister. I’m comparing them, yes. ... What did they do to Rabin? A loathsome murderer came and removed the prime minister from office by taking his life in an undemocratic manner. ... What they are doing to Prime Minister Netanyahu, except for taking his life, they are doing everything to remove him from office, by any means, so it is no less serious.”

When Poland denies the Holocaust, Israel erupts, and rightly so. When a senior coalition member, the chairman of the Knesset House Committee, denies Rabin’s murder, it’s shared widely on Facebook and denounced by the Labor Party (does it still exist?), and that’s about it.

When Poland’s prime minister compares the collaboration of Jews with the Nazi regime to that of Poles, Israel erupts, and rightly so. When the head of the Knesset House Committee compares Rabin’s murder to the police investigations against Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel ignores it. I wonder how many Israelis share Zohar’s opinion, or at least the spirit of his remarks.

What Zohar is saying, above all, is that Rabin’s murder was not so terrible. He fails to notice the categorical difference between the assassination of a prime minister and the political persecution of a prime minister. It is obvious that Netanyahu is not being investigated out of political persecution, but rather because sufficient evidence of criminal conduct has accumulated to justify investigation by the police.

The chairman of the Knesset House Committee is in effect arguing that applying the rule of law to the prime minister is tantamount to political persecution, and that political persecution is tantamount to murder. Both those arguments are nonsense, of course, and demonstrate a deep misunderstanding of the situation. But that is exactly what Zohar is arguing, on the surface. When you examine the implications of his statements, what he is really saying becomes clear. And what he is really saying is dark, terrifying and should disturb the sleep of every Israeli who hold dear democracy and the rule of law.

Zohar says Netanyahu needs to fire Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich and throw him into prison, cleanse the ranks of the police of the investigators who conspired to remove him from power and arrest Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and senior prosecutors who approved the police investigations.

In addition, he must arrest Yair Lapid, the chairman of opposition party Yesh Atid, who has cooperated with the police and sworn out a statement implicating. That, because Zohar has a theory, in which Lapid and Yoav Segalovich, the former head of the police investigations branch, “are cooking up some plot together to remove the prime minister from office by undemocratic means.” This would be no less than an attempted revolution, a putsch, like the one that Boris Yeltsin prevented in the Soviet Union in 1991.

Zohar is really saying that any means can be used against them. The supporters of democracy must protect it from those who want to destroy it, those police officers who conspired with Lapid to bring down the Netanyahu government and take power. We don’t need to dig deep to understand that is what Zohar is saying.

Rabin’s murder was an attempt to assassinate democracy, and Zohar’s defamatory words are another attempted murder of democracy. Another assassination attempt by the anti-democratic core of the Israeli right, in whose upside-down world light is darkness and darkness is light, and the police commissioner who is upholding the law is comparable to Yigal Amir, who shot and killed Rabin.