Incapacity Now

Haaretz Editorial
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Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the press on September 7, 2020.
Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the press on September 7, 2020.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Haaretz Editorial

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit must declare Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu incapacitated. Incapacity isn’t reserved only for serious medical conditions like Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s coma. The High Court of Justice has already addressed this issue, when it ruled on a petition seeking to force the then-attorney general to declare Prime Minister Ehud Olmert incapacitated due to the criminal investigations against him.

The justices said that in exceptional cases, a prime minister under criminal investigation could severely undermine the ability to conduct the investigation, and if so, the attorney general would be compelled to declare him incapacitated.

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The situation now is many times worse. The issue isn’t investigations, but an actual trial. And the prime minister is doing everything in his power to undermine the ability to conduct this criminal proceeding.

Netanyahu is investing most of his energy into efforts to delegitimize the prosecution, the police and sometimes even the trial court. He is using public resources, especially government spokespeople, to pursue his personal interests. He has consistently refused to sign a conflict of interests agreement, despite having promised to do so, via his attorney, when the High Court was hearing a challenge to the legality of the coalition agreement and the appointment of someone under indictment as prime minister.

Netanyahu’s severe conflict of interests prevents him from running the country. This is evident in his overall dysfunction, and especially with regard to fighting the coronavirus. The incidence of the illness, the number of seriously ill patients and the number of deaths have all been climbing nonstop, yet the problem isn’t being dealt with due to ulterior motives like the prime minister’s political survival, the date when the trial court will start hearing evidence against him, and the protests outside his official residence in Jerusalem.

The public’s welfare isn’t a consideration for Netanyahu, and therefore, the public’s faith in the government’s regulations and the public’s willingness to cooperate with them have hit an unprecedented nadir.

The law says that if a prime minister becomes temporarily incapacitated, the vice prime minister steps into the job. After 100 days, the incapacity becomes permanent, at which point the government must resign. If a new government isn’t formed in its place, elections are held. Nevertheless, we must hope that without Netanyahu, the political system will emerge from its dangerous downward spiral and be able to address the problems that are actually bothering the public.