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Trial Evasion in French

Haaretz Editorial
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Netanyahu in Kiryat Arba, an Israeli settlement close to Hebron, on February 23, 2020.
Netanyahu in Kiryat Arba, an Israeli settlement close to Hebron, on February 23, 2020.Credit: RONEN ZVULUN/ REUTERS
Haaretz Editorial

The trial of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to begin two weeks after the election, on March 17. Based on past precedents, one can assume that if he wins the race he will not balk at making dubious trades during his coalition negotiations and tailor legislation to help him avoid conviction. Kahol Lavan chairman Benny Gantz understands this. “Netanyahu wants only one thing – to put together a coalition that will allow him to pass what he calls ‘the French law,’” which would prevent a sitting prime minister from being prosecuted – in Netanyahu’s case, even after his trial has begun.

It’s not just Gantz who understands this. The public and the media know that Netanyahu hasn’t given up on finding a way to avoid justice. Asked in an interview whether, if he succeeds in forming a government, he would promote a version of the French law, Netanyahu responded, “I haven’t dealt with that at all. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” In another interview he said, “I will not legislate a French law and I will smash all the arguments against me in court.”

What’s shameful is that it isn’t the contradiction between the two responses that should bother the public, but the fact that whatever he says is no assurance of anything. The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter what Netanyahu says, because lying is a way of life for him. An entire country watched as he sat with Keren Marciano before the first election last year and lied shamelessly on live TV. When asked then about the possibility that he would seek parliamentary immunity, or that he would try to advance legislation or make any other move that would prevent him from standing trial, he said, “What? Of course not!”

The Israeli public knows for certain that Netanyahu lied, because what he said didn’t stop him from asking the Knesset for immunity from prosecution.

Gantz and his colleagues must utilize the days remaining before the election to remind the public that the crimes which Netanyahu is accused of– as bad as they are – are nothing compared to the crimes he plans to commit against the structure of Israeli democracy to save himself from the law.

It’s clear to all that the prime minister considers anything that will help him realize this objective as sacred: There is no law that he isn’t prepared to legislate, including the “override clause” that will uproot the power of the Supreme Court to strike down unconstitutional legislation. He will also continue to appoint his associates as “gatekeepers,” like Justice Minister Amir Ohana, State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman and Acting State Prosecutor Dan Eldad.

Netanyahu – “God’s friend,” as Likud’s campaign is claiming – is convinced that he’s above the law. No citizen should delude themselves into thinking that he will respect the law and submit to a trial like an ordinary person.

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

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