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To Protect and Serve Prime Minister Netanyahu

Haaretz Editorial
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Public Security Minister Amir Ohana in the Knesset, Jerusalem, May 24, 2020
Public Security Minister Amir Ohana in the Knesset, Jerusalem, May 24, 2020Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Haaretz Editorial

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana continues his efforts to quash the protests against his master, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. There is no stick he isn’t prepared to raise against the demonstrators, or carrot he would hesitate to use to tempt partners to his side. Every anti-Netanyahu demonstrator must know that they should expect a fine for not wearing a mask and be soaked by water cannons. And every police commander should know that the big prize for eradicating the protests will be the prestigious position of police commissioner.

Israel's Locked-down, Let-down Youth Rattles Netanyahu's Cage. LISTEN

“During the coronavirus period I think it would be worthwhile to avoid doing this,” Ohana said about the demonstrations two weeks ago, “for fear of spreading the virus.” Last week he made it clear to Acting Police Commissioner Moti Cohen that he expected police to raise the level of violence to that usually reserved for the ultra-Orthodox and Ethiopians.

On Sunday, in recordings broadcast by Kan, one can hear Ohana speaking with Jerusalem Police commander Maj. Gen. Doron Yedid, wondering why the police don’t forbid the demonstrations on Balfour Street and asking that they crack down on the demonstrators. “We can’t continue with this chaos. We can’t continue with this anarchism,” he tells Yedid. “I want to challenge that court ruling,” he said, referring to the ruling that permits demonstrations in the Rehavia neighborhood, near the prime minister’s official residence.

Yedid’s response proves that he and Ohana are on the same page. Yedid took pride in the previous day’s demonstration, during which the police gave out many tickets for violating coronavirus guidelines, which they generally avoid doing during demonstrations. “160 tickets for not wearing masks,” Yedid told the minister, stressing that “That’s not common.” One cannot separate his response from the race for the job of police commissioner. Yedid is one of the two leading candidates for the position, alongside Cohen.

His remarks, which imply that the police selectively enforce the requirement to wear masks and use it as a tool to break up demonstrations, raise serious suspicions that Yedid is seeking to find favor in Ohana’s eyes, and, even more importantly, in Netanyahu’s. Senior police officials confirmed those suspicions, saying Ohana is trying to exploit the police commissioner's appointment to prevent demonstrations in front of the prime minister’s residence.

Without the faith of the public, the government won’t succeed in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. And unless the country emerges from that crisis, the demonstrations won’t stop. But from day to day, the public is learning that the whole thing is a farce. Even the enforcement of the coronavirus restrictions, it seems, are connected to the degree of support for Netanyahu.

The attorney general must instruct the Justice Ministry’s department for the investigation of police officers to investigate the Jerusalem police commander for conflict of interest and improper enforcement.

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

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