Editorial

Netanyahu's Blatant Attempt to Stifle Democracy Fails, With the Israeli Public to Credit

The prime minister's capitulation to change the 'Recommendations Law' that it not apply to himself is a major achievement for the Israeli public

Israelis by the tens of thousands demonstrate in Tel Aviv during the 'March of Shame' over corruption allegations against Prime Minister Netanyahu on December 2, 2017.
Israelis by the tens of thousands demonstrate in Tel Aviv during the 'March of Shame' over corruption allegations against Prime Minister Netanyahu on December 2, 2017. Tomer Appelbaum

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday asked MK David Amsalem to change the bill to silence the police (the “Recommendations Law”), so that it would not apply to the investigations against Netanyahu himself. The prime minister’s capitulation and the postponement of the second and third Knesset votes on the draft law was a major achievement for the public.

Amsalem and his Likud colleague, coalition whip David Bitan, have been trying to guarantee a majority for the bill in the Knesset, but for the first time the coalition efforts met significant resistance. Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in Tel Aviv against the bill Saturday night, and the opposition united against it. The fight bore fruit; Netanyahu and his people realized they lacked a majority to pass the bill, so Environmental Protection Minister Zeev Elkin asked to postpone the vote by a week.

Netanyahu may have retreated on Sunday from his original plans, by which the law would pertain to him, but his Facebook post shows that he continues to disparage the public. “Unfortunately, the debate over the recommendations bill has turned into a political battering ram,” he wrote. “In order for the debate on the bill to be topical and not be used for political propaganda, I asked MK Amsalem to make sure the law is worded so that it won’t apply to the investigations involving me.”

Netanyahu is being disingenuous. There is nothing businesslike about the Recommendations Law. It was tailor-made for a prime minister under investigative siege, fast-tracked last week in a race against the investigative clock by Bitan, who himself was questioned by police Sunday on allegations of receiving bribes from an organized crime figure.

It is clear to all that the bill’s sponsors do not have the public’s interest in mind. The fact that Netanyahu and his government did not quail at using legislation to benefit the prime minister is a betrayal of the public trust. Through their actions they demonstrated contempt for democracy. Netanyahu and his people went too far, and the public responded appropriately.

The criticism of and sense of revulsion for Netanyahu exceeded the borders of the opposition this time. In addition to MK Benny Begin of Likud, lawmakers from Kulanu began to realize that if they failed to side with the public against government corruption, the public would see them as accessories to the crime.

Netanyahu summed up his remarks by saying: “The law is right and necessary, and since it has been made clear that it does not apply to my personal matters, I expect all coalition members to support it.” Amsalem immediately announced that he would continue to advance the draft law even if it does not apply to the prime minister. But the bill was born in sin. Instead of postponing the vote by a week, it should be buried.

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