Opinion

Netanyahu’s Man in the Police

When Bibi exits the stage of (rewriting) history, an inquiry will surely be conducted in an effort to stanch the bleeding of the dying democracy he left behind. And it will get to Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan too

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center left, sits with Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan, left, during a session at the Knesset in Jerusalem, Monday, March 12, 2018
Sebastian Scheiner/AP

Everybody calm down. Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit has asked Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan to consult him before starting discussions on the appointment of the next police commissioner.

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“I request that before you start dealing with this issue, you contact the undersigned so I can examine conflicts of interest relating to cabinet members whose affairs are under police investigation and give instructions accordingly,” Mendelblit wrote. Words as goads.

After this letter, it’s clear that Erdan will leave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu out of the loop. There will be no room for conflicts of interest. Netanyahu won’t know what hit him. He and his wife will learn about the new appointment from the papers.

But in real life, Mendelblit’s letter isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. It was written for the record. The purpose of this letter is to create a façade of good government. But who exactly is buying these lies?

As if Netanyahu’s only way to be involved in appointing the next police commissioner were through official channels. As if there were any possibility of the cowardly Erdan choosing a police commissioner who wasn’t acceptable to Netanyahu. And as if Erdan needed instructions, hints or winks from Netanyahu to understand exactly what’s expected of him.

>> Erdan’s test || Editorial >>

The truth is, in the current state of affairs in which investigations of Netanyahu are at their height and the police have recommended indicting him, replacing the police commissioner – the only person standing up to the prime minister’s thuggery – is a joke at the public’s expense.

After all, everyone has heard about Netanyahu’s intimidation of his ministers and of everyone else around him. The public is familiar with the absolute mafia-style loyalty Netanyahu demands of his people, who, as part of their appointment process are required to answer the question of whether they’ll be loyal to him.

The brave are few in number. Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan had to remind Netanyahu that he was loyal to the country, not to him.

Erdan is one more political prisoner. In his defense, it must be said that he doesn’t suffer from a greater weakness of character than the other people around Netanyahu. But the luck of fate and the vagaries of life have given him more opportunities to show it.

Today the only way to avoid a conflict of interest in reality, rather than on Mendelblit’s paper, is to extend the term of Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich. He’s due to finish his term in December after three years on the job. It’s very common in Israel to extend the police commissioner’s tenure for another year, and Alsheich is interested in staying on.

>> Israeli police chief says Netanyahu, Jerusalem police chief were in cahoots >>

But how did Erdan put it when asked about it on the talk show “Anashim” last month? “We frequently have differences of opinion, and we don’t see eye to eye on everything.”

It turns out that when Erdan isn’t talking about Arabs, he actually knows how to use understatement. But “an eye for an eye” would be a more appropriate phrase to describe what Erdan is doing to Alsheich in revenge for the fact that Alsheich did his job.

When Netanyahu exits the stage of (rewriting) history, to the sounds of the collapse of his international con game, an inquiry will surely be conducted in an effort to stanch the bleeding of the dying Israeli democracy he left behind. The inquiry will be into the part played by every person in the fiasco of this chapter of modern Jewish sovereignty. And it will get to Erdan as well.

The inquiry will discover that he was the minister responsible for the police in the years when they were investigating a long list of corruption and bribery offenses ascribed to the prime minister (and his wife), and he abandoned the police to the unbridled attacks, smears and lies of the prime minister, who behaved like a fugitive criminal. It remains to be seen whether Erdan will go even further and make the problem go away for his master.