Editorial

Benjamin Netanyahu and Criminal Case 67104-01-20

Netanyahu is seen during the the 2016 Genesis Prize award-ceremony in Jerusalem, June 23, 2016.
AMIR COHEN/ REUTERS

The die has been cast: Benjamin Netanyahu is on his way to the dock. At the last minute, a few hours before the Knesset was slated to vote on establishing a committee to discuss his request for immunity from prosecution, the prime minister withdrew his request. Soon afterward, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit formally charged him in the Jerusalem District Court with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in Cases 1000, 2000 and 4000.

The immunity story is over. Netanyahu can’t submit another request for immunity in these cases. And now that the indictments have been submitted, legal proceedings against him have officially begun.

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Lest anyone be confused, Netanyahu didn’t withdraw his immunity request out of a commitment to the public welfare or personal responsibility. He hasn’t thrown up his hands or submitted to the law. He simply retreated once he realized that the turn he took on his road to flee justice had led him into a dead end.

Granted, Netanyahu is currently in Washington, but that didn’t stop him from acting like a garden-variety criminal who, in his anger, curses the police, the judges, the state and anyone who happens to be in his way. Instead of facing the public and announcing his resignation, as required by the harsh fact that, for the first time in Israel’s history, a sitting prime minister has been indicted, he put up a self-pitying Facebook post about how his rights were being violated.

“I decided not to let this dirty game continue,” he wrote. “Later, I’ll smash all the ridiculous allegations and the false cases submitted against me.” Where’s the Association for Civil Rights in Israel when you need it?

For more than two years, Netanyahu has dragged the entire country into his legal campaign. As a suspect, he promised, “There will be nothing because there was nothing.” Under interrogation, he complained that a witch hunt was being conducted against him. When police recommended charging him, he dismissed the recommendations contemptuously and claimed that most police recommendations end up in the trash. When the attorney general decided to indict him subject to a hearing, he promised that the cases would collapse at the hearing. And when Mendelblit still wanted to indict him after the hearing, he requested immunity despite having promised not to seek it.

Then, with remarkable gall, he worked with all his might to prevent the Knesset from holding hearings on his request, and now, he has finally withdrawn it. At the same time, he dragged the state into three elections in the space of a year, and now he’s trying to redraw the state’s borders in an attempt to escape justice.

Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz’s response to Netanyahu’s decision was short and on target: “Nobody can run the country while at the same time managing three serious criminal cases for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.” From this, one clear conclusion arises: Netanyahu must resign immediately. He belongs in court, not in the prime minister’s residence. Someone who has been charged with crimes is not a legitimate candidate to form the next government.

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