Likud is the most democratic party in Israel, but only as long as it has a majority. When the numbers are against them, Likud politicians will do anything they can to prevent a decision by the majority, using pressure and incitement against those who stand in their way. They will even – heaven forfend – petition the High Court of Justice.
On the eve of the third election, without a trace of shame, statesmanship or national responsibility, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked for immunity from prosecution in the three corruption cases pending against him. Anyone who thought that Netanyahu had thus set the lowest possible bar for political behavior turned out to be mistaken.
Because while Netanyahu requested immunity, he did not intend to allow a debate and a vote on his request to take place until he had assured himself a majority. Indeed, since making the request, Netanyahu and his associates have spared no effort to prevent a debate on the immunity request, starting with a delegitimization campaign against Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon, which peaked with a petition to the High Court asking to invalidate his legal opinion on the matter on grounds of conflict of interest, and ending with the unprecedented and uninhibited pouncing on one of their own, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.
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On Sunday Edelstein did what was required and ordered the Knesset to assemble so that it could approve the convening of the Knesset House Committee to debate Netanyahu’s request. Edelstein was acting against his will but without any choice, since the Knesset legal adviser was of the opinion that the outgoing Knesset was permitted to debate the immunity request before the election. “Although I disagree with the position of the Knesset legal adviser, I believe that in order to maintain trust in the institution of the Knesset speaker, it is important to accept it,” Edelstein said.
But in complying with the law, he was acting against the wishes of the boss, who wasn’t interested in having his request debated until after the election. Edelstein was merely acceding to the request of 25 lawmakers who asked that the Knesset be convened in a special recess session. But as far as Netanyahu and his Likud minions were concerned, the fact that Edelstein didn’t lie down and physically block the debate – even if it meant a confrontation with the judicial system – was a betrayal of his master.
Israelis don’t need to be reminded of how Likud deals with those it considers traitors. With one decision, Edelstein became Public Enemy No. 1, moving to the top of the Likud target bank. In a single moment the leader of the legislative branch, No. 2 in the Likud party, became a leftist collaborator and an enemy of the people.
Edelstein did the right thing by facilitating the formation of the committee that will debate Netanyahu’s immunity. The criminal culture that has spread through Likud, in the spirit of its criminal-defendant commander, must be uprooted.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.