The Israeli Police’s Finest Hour

Netanyahu and his supporters have accused the heads of the police of trying to bring down the right-wing government. That’s nonsense

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at Ben Gurion Airport during the inauguration of a new gate, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Ariel Schalit/AP

It’s possible that the police really were overenthusiastic, overly blunt, in the manner (not the essence) of presenting their recommendations. Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich’s interview with journalist Ilana Dayan shouldn’t have taken place at such a sensitive time, on the eve of submission of the recommendations. But all law-abiding people must agree on one thing: The police’s decision that the type and quantity of the “gifts” that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded and received are clearly bribery, is of an educational-ethical importance whose value can hardly be exaggerated.

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When the boundaries between the permissible and the prohibited are breached, and the head of the government and some leading lawmakers are leading the breach, the principled, courageous, unequivocal statement of an enforcement body as central as the national police is extremely necessary.

When it comes to doing their main task, preserving public welfare, the police are not always at their best, and many in their ranks keep the Justice Ministry’s department for investigating police officers busy. But when it comes to integrity, the Israel Police, as a whole, has not suffered from rot. And so, with a clear conscience in this regard, it can investigate government leaders and people of influence.

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Netanyahu corruption scandals

Even if Netanyahu is not prosecuted, or experienced lawyers (whose fees will probably be triple the value of the cigars, Champagne and jewelry he allegedly received) rescue him from punishment, in principle, as numerous polls conducted by media outlets have shown, the people have spoken: That is not conduct befitting a public figure, certainly not a prime minister: such an extreme lack of inhibition, such a pursuit of gifts and la dolce vita.

This is the finest hour of the police and the ugliest hour of many others, particularly those for whom political power and its perks are more important than the country’s moral image and ethical fortitude. Only on one point are Netanyahu and those rushing to exonerate him correct: A significant portion of those who are trying to bring him down are not acting out of concern for ethics and the rule of law; they see the recommendations as an opportunity to oust the right.

When the late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon sought a way to avoid the state prosecutor’s prepared indictment, he suddenly saw the light: a commitment to destroy Gush Katif. At the time, the righteous of the generation, including the head of the judiciary at the time, were mobilized, and in exchange for the uprooting of the 25 settlements Sharon was pardoned for his sins. And his acts of corruption were 10 times greater than Netanyahu’s (unless it turns out that the latter was also involved in consenting to the infuriating sale of submarines to Egypt, which for some reason is not being investigated).

Netanyahu and his supporters have accused the heads of the police of trying to bring down the right-wing government. Commissioner Roni Alsheich? That’s nonsense. Moreover, the polls show most Israelis are losing their trust in Netanyahu, not in the right. If elections were held today, the right would maintain its power and even, in the case of Habayit Hayehudi, become stronger.

Perhaps, for the sake of propriety, this isn’t the time. But the moment the attorney general announces his decision to prosecute Netanyahu, a few of Likud’s leading lights must overcome their inhibitions and say: Netanyahu has gone too far, and I will contest the leadership of the party and the government. It will be hard for them to take the threats and incriminations (traitor, informer, hypocrite, collaborator, leftist) voiced in recent days by Netanyahu’s associates. But simply by daring to offer their candidacy they will prove that they have the stuff of which national leaders are made.