Editorial

Israelis Didn't Show Up to 'Stop the Coup.' It's Time for Netanyahu to Face Reality

Supporters of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chant slogans and hold up signs in support of him during a rally in Tel Aviv, November 26, 2019.
AFP

As if we weren’t talking about a longtime ruling party, supporters of Likud demonstrated last night in Tel Aviv against the law enforcement authorities to protest the filing of three indictments against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Under the unfounded slogan “protecting the state, stopping the coup,” a few thousand people, among them members of right-wing organizations Im Tirtzu, Regavim, Yisrael Sheli, and the National Camp’s Joint Task Force, demonstrated against government agencies that have for more than a decade been run by their own representatives, while chanting, “investigate the investigators.”

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The absurdity screamed to the heavens: Who headed the judicial system that they were now besmirching like teenage anarchists if not the settlers’ representative in the government, Ayelet Shaked? Who was the minister responsible for the police if not Gilad Erdan of Likud? Who appointed their sworn adversary, Roni Alsheich, as police commissioner or Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit who is now the enemy of the people? And who was at the helm of government and all those other systems which they were condeming if not criminal suspect Netanyahu?

The almost total absence of Likud ministers – with the exception of Culture Minister Miri Regev – and of right-wing politicians altogether – testified to Netanyahu’s increasingly precarious situation. The premier invested incredible effort in trying to persuade his party’s ministers and MKs to show up. He also did everything he could to bring the masses to the square; he sent text messages to Likud members and posted a video on Facebook, asking his followers to come; he met with activists demonstrating across from his residence in Jerusalem and called on them through a loudspeaker to come to the demonstration; he asked local council heads in the West Bank to call on their people to attend; telephoned the heads of party branches and prominent activists; and sent his aides to persuade the ministers. Even so, the poor results underscored the fact that there are very few buyers for his ridiculous putsch theory and his fake “Israeli Spring.”

Netanyahu likes to brag about his public support, and has hinted that it’s enough to provide him with immunity from prosecution. That’s a dangerous and invalid line of thought that threatens the rule of law in Israel. But on Tuesday even that dubious excuse dissipated. Netanyahu will, in the end, have to face reality and understand that his term as prime minister is over, and his time as a criminal defendant has begun. It would be best for him to release the state from his grip and devote the bulk of his time to his defense attorneys.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.