A prime minister committed to the general welfare and not to his personal good would step down from his position at the completion of a police investigation that finds evidence of severe corruption offenses on his part.
But not Benjamin Netanyahu. Not only hasn’t it occurred to him to resign at this stage, he has also launched a comprehensive campaign intended to publicly delegitimize the law enforcement agencies. And as if that weren’t enough, he is now putting himself up for reelection and considering out loud the possibility of maintaining his position – should he be reelected – even if he is indicted for bribery.
Netanyahu is putting pressure on Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit so that he doesn’t dare to think of deciding to indict him, even subject to a hearing, before the election takes place. Also, Netanyahu wants to instill in the public and in his future coalition partners the idea that a prime minister can retain this post even while on trial for crimes of corruption.
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The attorney general must ignore these transparent pressure tactics. He must continue to examine the evidence in the case and the police and state prosecutor’s recommendations, and make a decision as soon as possible.
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In fact, he must speed up the decision as much as he can not only due to the democratic principles involved, which oblige him to make clear to the public what its prime minister’s legal situation is – but because the attorney general’s own directives stipulate that in cases of investigations against elected officials, the authorities must strive to make a decision as quickly as possible.
Mendelblit must not surrender to pressure by Netanyahu and his people, just as he must not draw an analogy between the demand on him to slow down his work and the calls that he carry it out efficiently.
Although the law does not compel it, if charges are presented against Netanyahu, he must resign from any ministerial duty – as well as from the prime minister’s post – and any spin he comes out with won’t change this.
If the continued tenure of an indicted minister critically damages the public’s confidence in the government, then the damage is all the more severe when the indicted minister is the premier. In such a situation Mendelblit will have to make this fact clear to Netanyahu as well, and if he doesn’t, he himself will be betraying his professional and public duty.