Democracy's strength is sapped. It is gravely ill. In fact, it has slipped into a coma. It used to be capable of cleaning itself, and would send the ruling government into the opposition just before it was about to bring on a catastrophe. But this mechanism has ceased to function.
The interview that former Shin Bet security service chief Yuval Diskin gave last week to Yedioth Ahronoth is a tale of critical mistakes in statecraft, but also of corrupt behavior. Diskin described an important discussion about Iran during which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak sat smoking cigars, the latter rising occasionally to refill his glass with a fine whiskey. Yes, Barak: born and raised on Kibbutz Mishmar Hasharon, long-term Laborite.
The discussion did not take place in the Prime Minister's Office, heaven forfend! It was held, with aforethought, at Mossad headquarters in Glilot, where there is a comfortable lounge and patio. Chefs in white toques were brought in to cook a gourmet meal for the three men and the rest of the attendees. That isn't Israeli. It violates every norm. It is the conduct of a government that has gone off the rails, that is permeated by corruption and arrogance.
In the interview, Diskin implies that Barak opposed the bombing of the Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007 (attributed by foreign sources to Israel) because the bragging rights would go to then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and not to him. Diskin says Netanyahu's obsession with attacking Iran comes from his desire to be greater than both Menachem Begin, who ordered the 1981 strike on Iraq's nuclear reactor, and Olmert. So it's no wonder Diskin reaches the scary conclusion that "personal, opportunistic and current interests are what lead them, before anything else."
The conduct of Netanyahu and Barak is well known. Netanyahu ended his first round as prime minister with the affair involving contractor Avner Amadi and gifts. During his current term, we learned that his office demanded that a bed be installed on a plane bringing him to Europe for a meeting. And it was not so long ago that the possibility of the state paying upkeep costs on his private home in Caesarea was explored.
As for Barak, it came to light that control of companies under his control was transferred to his daughters; that he employed a housekeeper at his residence who lacked the appropriate permits; and that he stayed at the most expensive hotel in Paris, for $20,000 a night, to cite just a few examples.
Once upon a time, Israeli democracy meted out punishment for the sin of hubris. It used to sweep away the haughty and the hedonistic. It once ejected Labor from power with the slogan - loosely translated from the Hebrew - "Your time is up, corrupt politicians."
Today it's just business as usual, because Israeli democracy is comatose.
A healthy democracy puts the ruling government into the opposition over affairs of state, mainly. But look at us: In the course of four years, Netanyahu has led us into an isolated corner, and even our great - and only - friend has had it with us. After four years, he has brought us to the path that will lead to a binational state, in which the Arabs will come to be the majority in the course of time, and that will put an end to the Zionist dream.
U.S. President Barack Obama loathes Netanyahu and will not consent to talk to him under any circumstances. Netanyahu promised Obama that he would negotiate with the Palestinians and work toward the realization of the two-state solution. But, in practice, he has done just the opposite, and Obama neither forgives nor forgets.
The day after the United States, nearly alone among the nations, voted in the UN against giving the Palestinian Authority nonmember observer status, Netanyahu announced his intention to build 3,000 more homes in the E-1 area and the settlements. That was tantamount to spitting in the face of the president of the United States. So it should come as no surprise that when Obama nominated Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense, Netanyahu cannot even pick up the phone and whisper a word of demurral.
In the old days, democracy would have removed a leader for jeopardizing the future of the nation and the state in such a manner. But its strength is sapped now. It is in a coma, and no one knows if or when it will ever recover.