Opinion

The Attorney General Must Put an End to the Circus

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem, October 28, 2019.
Kobi Gideon / GPO

The history of Israeli government contains nothing at all like these Days of Incitement. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his close circle are in a panic, and are leading with the help of indentured ministers and Knesset members, aides and fans, a campaign to undermine the status of the law enforcement authorities.

They are producing shows of North Korean-style brown-nosing, trying to intimidate state witnesses and rewrite the history of the murderous incitement they led against Yitzhak Rabin exactly 24 years ago. As in similar cases in history, the gradualism blinds the public that does not notice the danger and is not acting with enough determination to remove it.

Netanyahu’s strategy is transparent. He understands that it is too late for him to come up with a “deal” that would prevent his being indicted. His fear is enormous and justified. The possibilities open to him are very limited and have given rise to unrestrained behavior. Netanyahu must remain behind the wheel to deter Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit from making the obligatory decisions, or alternatively to delay them until State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan and Liat Ben Ari, the lead prosecutor on his cases, are replaced by weaker people.

This is an important component in the efforts to knock down the charges in the Bezeq-Walla Case 4000, and maybe also to weaken the Yedioth Ahronoth Case 2000. Even just one of these “achievements” would enable him to claim that the mountain has turned into a molehill. Mendelblit will take pride in being the first attorney general to dare to indict a sitting prime minister on charges of fraud and breach of trust, but Netanyahu and his propagandists will claim the corrupt prosecution is hanging on to the remaining cases to save their prestige and cover up for their failures.

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Israel will enter a governmental, constitutional and political crisis that will threaten its cohesion as a democracy. That is why Netanyahu is unwilling to give up on continuing on as prime minister even at the price of calling another election. His only chance lies in the twists and turns that will occur between now and May 2020.

Because of all this it is actually critical that Benny Gantz does not fall into the trap of President Reuven Rivlin’s initiative. In the present situation, no agreement will be respected and no “incapacity” will ever take effect. The attacks in the media by Netanyahu’s mouthpieces and those who follow him blindly, backed up by “spontaneous” violence in the streets, will prevent carrying out the agreements.

Gantz can form a minority government with the support of the Joint List and Avigdor Lieberman. Within three months of the day the government is established, the indictments against Netanyahu will necessarily be filed, which will immediately lead to his removal from politics. This step will allow the establishment of a broad unity government with the participation of Likud – without Netanyahu. This possibility will run into political difficulties, mostly of prestige and image, which could very well lead to a third election, with all the risks involved.

All these difficulties would evaporate if Mendelblit, the man who has the power to once and for all end this circus – would get his act together. He bears significant responsibility for the situation that has been created. He drew out the investigations infinitely, determined without an investigation that Netanyahu was not a suspect in the submarine affair and has yet to open an investigation on Netanyahu’s false reports to the state comptroller and the Milikowsky shares affair.

Mendelblit and the State Prosecutor’s Office know every shred of evidence in Netanyahu’s cases. The idea that Israel will be forced into an election again and an unprecedented governmental and constitutional crisis because Mendelblit needs a few more weeks to think things over is unacceptable. He has the power to make the necessary decisions by the middle of November and not by the middle of December. The difference in the probability of a risk to Israeli democracy is enormous. We must demand he meets the test, the alternative is too dangerous.