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What Netanyahu Should Really Be on Trial For

Nehemia Shtrasler
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in court, April, 2021.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in court, April, 2021.Credit: Abir Sultan/Reuters
Nehemia Shtrasler

One man twists an entire country around. One man is responsible for both of Monday’s dramas, in court and in the President’s Residence. One man is also responsible for the impossible puzzle of election results, and the chaotic reality in which we live, a reality where all the rules we were accustomed to are broken and gone. Until now it was a given that after every election, a government was formed – sometimes a good one, sometimes less so, but it happened. Now, after a fourth election in less than two years, there is no conclusion, and, which is itself, by definition, unstable.

The inability to form a stable government is clearly attributable to the prime minister, who has taken his party hostage and is using it for his personal goal: obtaining immunity and canceling his trial. That’s why Benjamin Netanyahu has no problem promising seven reserved spots on the Likud list, nor does he have a problem relying on Mansour Abbas, even though he had previously called the Arab parties “terror supporters” and “terrorist lovers,” and declared there was no chance there would be a government with Abbas’ support. His web of lies has given politics a bad name and makes democracy fragile and weak.

LISTEN: On trial and struggling to cobble a coalition, bankrupt Bibi is teetering on the brink

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That’s also how the new norm of rotation developed. No matter how small you are, if you have the power to blackmail, you can demand a rotation, which makes the government impossible to manage. Imagine a company CEO who knows that in two years he’ll be replaced by his rival. Obviously that company will collapse.

For years, the first thing a government did after an election was present a budget, which is essentially its work plan, setting clear priorities for tax policy and the size of the deficit, and a package of reforms meant to spur growth and a rise in living standards. And after two years, which included a serious health, economic and social crisis, there is still no state budget and no plan. The government is working on a “continued funding” basis, to which a huge coronavirus fund (130 billion shekels over two years) was added, allowing it to spend huge sums without deficit limits, spending cuts or tax hikes. Then the public is told the lie that all this is possible and that Shulman will pay.

This is also the first time that two years have passed without structural reforms or changes in the economy, because of the blatant election economics Bibi conducted from the minute the rotation government was formed. He didn’t want to anger any interest group, so he didn’t cut wages in the public sector, didn’t reduce excessive budgetary pensions, didn’t raise women’s retirement age, won’t charge VAT on fruits and vegetables and won’t drop quotas on the import of foodstuffs. The result: negative growth, high unemployment and a drop in living standards.

For years we believed that we had a strong and independent legal system that knew how to protect the little guy. We were told that our Supreme Court had an international reputation. And now Bibi, because of his trial, has turned this magnificent system into a punching bag with a long campaign of falsehoods. He tried to finish off the police commissioner, then the prosecution, and now the attorney general and the judges. All have been subject to attacks and threats, reducing public trust in them.

. But from a public perspective, he should be tried for the repeated elections, forcing senior law enforcement officials to hire bodyguards, and the fact that there’s no budget or growth but plenty of unemployment.

The public should try Bibi for leading it to lose trust in government institutions, and for creating a situation where lies are preferable to truth. The only good thing left for him to do is simply resign. Not to even to dream about the presidency, but to just go home.

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