A Haaretz investigation on Thursday found that nearly all the parties in the current governing coalition would join another one headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, even if he is summoned to a pre-indictment hearing. What’s more, most would do so even if he stood trial. These findings are additional reminders that the principle truly at stake in the upcoming election is the rule of law.
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Successive Netanyahu governments haven’t been content with merely assaulting Israeli democracy and its constituent values – equality for minorities, freedom of expression and other human rights. In recent years, the assault has focused on the rule of law – that is, the principle that everyone is subject to the law; that there must be a strong, effective, independent law enforcement system to ensure that the law is upheld by and enforced against both ordinary people and the government; and that there must be effective penalties for those who break it.
The rule of law is under attack on multiple fronts. The targets include the institutions responsible for enforcing it – the police, the prosecution and the courts – as well as the people responsible for ensuring that the government obeys the law, such as ministry legal advisers, the attorney general, the state comptroller and every other independent oversight agency.
This assault is taking place under slogans such as “governability” and “the will of the people.” Its hallmarks include irresponsible statements by politicians, but also concrete proposals for legislation, first and foremost the so-called “French law,” which would put the prime minister above the law by granting him immunity from prosecution while in office.
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The Haaretz investigation discovered a contemptuous attitude toward both law enforcement officials and the weighty significance of an indictment. Thus the importance of preserving crucial systems and institutions, without which the government might well acquire unlimited power, must be the focus of this election. All the parties that are committed to the rule of law must publicly pledge in their platforms, and also in their post-election conditions for joining a new governing coalition, not to permit any harm to law enforcement agencies, to protect the attorney general’s position, to bolster the Supreme Court and its powers, to defend the current method of judicial appointments and to prevent any diminution in the status of the Basic Laws and judicial review.
Otherwise, Israel is liable to wake up after the election to a new set of circumstances, in which it will be possible to definitively dismantle the rule of law.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.