Editorial

The Goal: Granting Netanyahu Permission to Do as He Pleases

Matanyahu Englman sworn in as Israel's state comptroller at the Knesset, July 1, 2019.
Emil Salman

Matanyahu Englman, who was appointed with the task of eviscerating the office of the state comptroller of any content in the service of his masters, has begun fulfilling his mission.

This week he decided to appoint to his office’s Permits Committee members who are not jurists, including Likud and other right-wing party associates. Whether it is someone who served on the Likud election campaign headquarters and was a candidate for the post of director-general of the Prime Minister’s office (Shmuel Slavin) or someone who called on Facebook to vote for Likud (Esther Luzzatto), it’s clear that Englman understood exactly why he had been appointed: what’s the point of a permits committee if it doesn’t permit Benjamin Netanyahu to do anything he feels like?

It’s hard to think of a more egregious move. Over the last year, Netanyahu appealed to the committee three times for permission to exceed ethical boundaries that bind other cabinet members and receive cash and gifts, some of these retroactively, in order to fund his legal defense. In all cases the committee, in its former composition, refused his request. Now Netanyahu is seeking, through his loyal servant Englman, to change the committee’s composition so that his request is granted. This is what government corruption looks like: Englman is using the power he has through his public office in order to serve his master’s interests, instead of using his power for the public’s benefit.

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Someone who is supposed to act as a gatekeeper, and certainly with maintaining the independence of the permits committee, which serves as an autonomous gatekeeper with regard to avoiding conflicts of interest, is making a mockery of these lofty principles.

Claims by Netanyahu supporters, that changes in the committee’s composition stem from it having exceeded its authority by denying him the opportunity to defend himself against criminal charges, are a red herring.

The committee adhered to the law in its actions. Netanyahu was the one who violated his lawyers’ commitment to the High Court of Justice to provide the committee with all the required information it needed to consider his application. If the panel’s decisions seemed unreasonable to Netanyahu, he could have appealed to the court. Instead, he chose to name a comptroller who seems to be running wild in his campaign to undermine any comptroller’s ability to confront government agencies.

Englman rushed to please his patron by appointing people whose main competency is the support they’ve expressed for Netanyahu and Likud. Emptying the permits committee of any content and turning it into a rubber stamp in the prime minister’s service is but one more step of a right-wing project, headed by Netanyahu, aimed at destroying state institutions. The continuation of this trend will sink the state to new depths. Englman has given us further proof of the urgent need to replace the corrupt and corrupting government led by the suspect from Balfour Street.

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