Opinion |

If Netanyahu Is Dreyfus, How Can His Trial End in a Plea Bargain?

Carolina Landsmann
Carolina Landsmann
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset in Jerusalem, Wednesday.
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset in Jerusalem, Wednesday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Carolina Landsmann
Carolina Landsmann

Is “moral turpitude” merely a technical-legal term, or does it carry with it the moral history behind the term?

In his book “Matzavei Ruach” (Moods), Yoel Hoffman tells of a groom who was injured from glass shards that stuck in his foot when he broke the glass at the huppa. “And he was taken from the huppa straight to hospital.” When he got out he quickly hired a lawyer and sued the banquet hall.

“Imagine Christ coming down from the cross and hiring a lawyer. Had he done so, he would have altered the course of history and who knows what disasters would have occurred.” Hoffman leaves no room for dilemma. “Man had better accept his fate and go to his honeymoon with his foot bleeding and only there, with the sheets reddening, utter a sigh.”

In retrospect, it’s easy to see history’s course and understand the necessary chain of events. Only looking back, after having lived the historical course in which Jesus’ crucifixion was a seminal event, can we understand profoundly the significance of what Hoffman is asking us to imagine: the possibility – that is, what would have happened – had Jesus come down from the cross and hired a lawyer.

This luxury was given to us by time. The people of Jesus’ time had no way of knowing his death wasn’t the end, but the beginning of the Christian age.

Dreyfus’ trial was also a seminal event for the Zionist movement. During his coverage of the trial, Herzl turned from a journalist into the visionary of the State of Israel.

Now “imagine,” to use Hoffman’s word, that Dreyfus had signed a plea bargain. “If he had, he would have altered the course of history,” and who knows if the State of Israel would have been established.

Netanyahu’s followers compare his trial to that of Dreyfus. That’s why the first thing I thought of when I heard Netanyahu and the prosecution had held talks on a plea bargain, was – is it conceivable that Dreyfus would sign a plea bargain?

This is why I wasn’t surprised when journalist Avishay Ben-Haim objected to the agreement. But the penny dropped as far as he’s concerned. If Netanyahu is Dreyfus, Ben-Haim is not his Emile Zola, but rather Herzl. He isn’t “only” the accuser, but the one who builds out of his trial a historical movement that is much bigger than the defendant, i.e., the visionary of the Second Israel.

I won’t forget how he explained that: “In my self-awareness I’m using him: ‘More than Netanyahu used the Second Israel, the Second Israel used Netanyahu.’ In my self-awareness I invented the narrative linking him to the ethnic schism, he wasn’t the one who invented it.”

I think Ben-Haim is right. From a historical perspective, and also thanks to Ben-Haim’s project of reviving the ethnic language, Netanyahu will be remembered as the emancipator of the Second Israel. In all irony – or poetic justice – he may, against his own will and that of the Second Israel, go down in history as the emancipator of the Third Israel (Israeli Arabs) as well.

Will Netanyahu accept his sentence – the sentence of history, not of Avichai Mendelblit – and bleed for the Bibi-ist revolution? He, who wanted to go down in history as Israel’s defender against a Jewish nuclear holocaust, and who let the ethnic genie out of the bottle just to ask him for more votes? Is that what will remain of him in the end?

On the other hand, how can he back down after they’ve already bought his story and invested their entire symbolic capital in it?

Until a few weeks ago I was convinced Netanyahu envied Yitzhak Rabin his heroic death. This is how I understood his repeated complaints about threats on his life. Julius Caesar was stabbed 23 times. Jesus was crucified. Rabin was assassinated. What will become of Netanyahu? He’ll give a few lectures and grow old in Florida? Compete with Elon Musk?

It’s worth thinking twice before coming down from the cross and looking for a lawyer. Netanyahu is liable to destroy the mythical aspect of his life.

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