‘Put Netanyahu on Trial’ Is Not the Answer to Every Problem

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Netanyahu visits an elementary school in Jerusalem, November 5, 2020.
Netanyahu visits an elementary school in Jerusalem, November 5, 2020.Credit: Marc Israel Sellem
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

If the inoculations are found to be ineffective, if an Israeli mutation emerges that is immune to the vaccine – which experts increasingly fear – half of Israelis will accuse Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of responsibility for the failed vaccination drive. A whole faction will explain that the vaccinations were just another election bribe by a prime minister who only wants to evade trial. A prime minister who, if he cared for the state before caring for himself, would not have let one vial enter the country.

Even the fact that Israel is leading the world in vaccinations will be seen in the eyes of the “Anybody But Bibi” camp as an unforgivable mistake. The strictest among us will demand that he be put on trial. Since the Yom Kippur War there hasn’t been a failure like the coronavirus failure.

Why Bibi won't stand up to ultra-Orthodox COVID scofflaws: LISTEN

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Nehemia Shtrasler doesn’t have to wait for the failure of the vaccinations. To him, Netanyahu should already be tried because of the way he dealt with the coronavirus. He is worse than Golda Meir – Golda had “good intentions,” nothing personal motivated her. Oh, Golda, the innocent and the pure, the woman who jumped at every chance for peace, for whom any personal consideration was foreign, look at her and look at Netanyahu.

The fact is, writes Shtrasler, more people have died of the coronavirus because of Netanyahu than in the Yom Kippur War because of Golda. The conclusion: Put Netanyahu on trial. (“Netanyahu is guiltier than Golda,” Haaretz Hebrew edition, January 26.)

Twitter has already spoken: Netanyahu, agent of death. The hatred toward him blinds the wise and drives people out of their minds. In Britain, 100,000 people have died and no one has yet called for Boris Johnson to be put on trial.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomes Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outside Downing Street in London, September 5, 2019.Credit: HANNAH MCKAY/ REUTERS

To that camp, which is beautiful in its own eyes, anything Netanyahu does is bad now and forevermore. When he declares a lockdown, it’s the end of the world; he is demolishing the economy. When he opens up the economy, it’s the end of the world; election bribery and trafficking in the dead. When Ben-Gurion Airport was open – shooting from the hip. When it’s closed – devastation. How did he not lock down the ultra-Orthodox cities – after all, it’s so easy. 

The whole world is moving between hope and despair, between closing the economy and opening it, trial and error in the face of a pandemic that no one was prepared for and whose end no one knows. Israel is ranked 15th in the world for comprehensive response to the coronavirus, according to a survey published Tuesday by Bloomberg. Ahead of Denmark. It’s No. 1 in vaccinations, but who’s counting? Put Netanyahu on trial. He’s worse than Golda.

Of course it is correct to say that an indicted prime minister cannot continue in office, but, shamefully, the law allows this. Of course, Netanyahu is the slyest of politicians, whose lifestyle is repulsive and perhaps criminal too, who is only motivated by electoral and personal considerations – who isn’t? – and of course he’s responsible for serious and perhaps fatal mistakes in the struggle against COVID-19.

If only Gideon Sa’ar, Naftali Bennett or Yair Lapid were in charge of the pandemic, nobody would die in Israel. The hospitals would be deserted and we would all be dancing in the park right now at an Omer Adam concert. If Golda Meir was dealing with the pandemic, Israel would sneeze, and find itself in another terrible war of choice.

A protester kisses a grotesquely large syringe during a demonstration against Netanyahu near his private residence in the upscale seaside town of Caesarea, January 23, 2021. Credit: Amir Levy

As fate would have it, Netanyahu is prime minister. The mistakes are piling up, some of them serious, including the dealings with the ultra-Orthodox, and alongside them are achievements that cannot be ignored. Anyone who does ignore them is a propagandist no less than Netanyahu. Yes, the vaccinations. The achievement can’t be taken lightly, as the beautiful camp is trying to do. Anybody who says a good word about the vaccinations, or about anything connected to Netanyahu, is immediately excoriated as a “Bibi-ist,” which in the language of the left wing is what “traitor” is to the right.

Netanyahu is responsible for everything that goes wrong, and for nothing that goes right. Netanyahu is to blame for the death of every patient in the coronavirus wards. Their blood is on his hands.

No prime minister has ever been put on trial here for war crimes, for refusing peace or for an infraction of international law. Netanyahu is to blame: He invented the coronavirus in the laboratory of the official residence on Balfour Street.

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