Head of the Evasion Branch of Government

Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial
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Netanyahu flanked by his closest allies on his first day in court in Jerusalem, in May 2020.
Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial

There’s no limit to the cynicism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and it’s embarrassing how low the spineless lackeys who surround him are willing to go to try to help him evade justice. Sunday it was Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin who stepped up for this despicable task, when he called to postpone the evidentiary stage of Netanyahu’s trial, meant to start today, Monday, because of the March elections.

Like the others under indictment in Netanyahu’s cases – the former owners of Bezeq and Walla, Shaul and Iris Elovitch, and Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes, defendant Netanyahu is meant to be present for today’s hearing, at which all of them will be asked to respond to the charges against them.

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But Netanyahu isn’t a defendant among equals. From the moment his investigation was opened, he made sure to question its legitimacy at every stage, up through the filing of the indictment and the start of his trial. Netanyahu didn’t hesitate to dismantle and establish governments, to block passage of the state budget and do everything he could to remain in power so he could advance legislation or immunity that could help him escape justice.

After the evidentiary stage was delayed from January to February, and this after the opening of his trial was delayed from last March to May because of the eruption of the coronavirus pandemic, Netanyahu said last week that his trial would proceed despite the lockdown. But he didn’t say he wouldn’t try to evade trial in other ways.

And indeed: lockdown – out, elections – in. Shamelessly, Knesset member Levin argued Sunday that the Jerusalem District Court should postpone this stage of the trial until after the March 23 election, “to avoid gross and unprecedented interference in the elections.” In a country that has had four elections in two years, this is the perfect excuse. And if this won’t work, one can always try to use the coronavirus excuse again.

Netanyahu and his minions have found an original way to deal with the inherently inconceivable difficulty of having a prime minister accused of crimes, and with the conflict of interest between managing the country and appearing for trial: Instead of blocking such a man from contending for the premiership, establishing a government or serving as its leader, they suggest that his trial simply be canceled, or at least postponed. How did they not think of that sooner?

An innocent person is meant to welcome the opportunity to prove his innocence. But Netanyahu is fleeing from the law like an escaped convict. All of Israel has become a hostage to this accused man on the run. The judges must close their ears to his ridiculous entreaties and conduct his trial as scheduled.

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

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