The High Court of Justice decided late Wednesday night to deny the petition against tasking criminal defendant Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with forming the next government, as well as the petition against the coalition agreement between Likud and Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan. These rulings are regrettable.
But it is no coincidence that the High Court was required to rule on these two issues, as they are entwined – in order to legitimize this abomination, it was necessary to formulate a distorted and twisted agreement.
Netanyahu’s loyalists have never had a problem with the twists and turns of this agreement since they have grown accustomed to demonstrating exceptional flexibility as part of their defense of a man charged with criminal offenses.
When it suits them, the loyalists cling to the letter of the law and insist that it explicitly states that the prime minister can continue to serve while under indictment. But when the law is inconvenient for them, the cronies amend it in the blink of an eye.
The loyalists' response to the Dery-Pinhasi precedent, which explicitly bars cabinet members from continuing to serve from the moment they are indicted, is to invent a new position –“An alternate prime minister,” to whom the precedent doesn’t apply. Israeli legislation and governance are just clay in the maker’s hands – and the maker is Netanyahu.
It is a shame that the High Court refused to accept the fact that the Netanyahu-Gantz coalition agreement is nothing more than the lens we can look through at the government corruption it wants to impose. A criminal defendant demanding to appoint the state prosecutor and attorney general is unheard of. So is the fact that a person under indictment demands to freeze legislation that is not linked to the coronavirus for the next six months and to do away with the opposition representative on the Judicial Appointments Committee.
These clauses in the coalition agreement reveal Netanyahu’s intentions to undermine the legal proceedings against him. In addition, they testify to another problem included in his continued functioning as prime minister: Netanyahu is facing a serious conflict of interest. Any action he may take could well be suspected as being intended to serve his legal interests, as former State Prosecutor Moshe Lador explained in a Haaretz podcast in the Hebrew edition this week.
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Instead of the court blocking this possibility, now things may well reach the stage where every institution and bureaucrat, even if they are carrying out their jobs properly, could pay the hefty price of being an “obstacle” in Netanyahu’s path. And every institution and bureaucrat seeking to find favor with the prime minister – and are willing to loosen regulations and ignore laws to do so – could be given a reward they do not deserve. This is exactly how the basic foundations of law and justice are emptied of all their content and enable a corrupt reality.
A country cannot be run under such ongoing suspicion. A country cannot bear severe conflict of interests at the top of its governmental pyramid. It’s too bad that the court chose to allow it.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.