Editorial

‘Let Me Die With the Philistines’

Netanyahu is the prime minister, not a run-of-the-mill citizen. Even if he believes he is a victim of injustice, he can’t behave like a garden-variety criminal trying to clear his name

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at United Nations headquarters, Thursday, March 8, 2018
Richard Drew/AP

Benjamin Netanyahu thinks he is a victim of injustice. He’s certain that people are persecuting him and trying to saddle him with countless criminal cases and scandals in an effort to oust him as prime minister. He’s convinced that the left and the media are collaborating to exert heavy pressure on investigative agencies, the law enforcement system and the justice system. He is convinced that these systems are caving in under the pressure and that their judgment has been warped, and therefore they seek to do him harm.

But Netanyahu is the prime minister, not a run-of-the-mill citizen. Even if he believes he is a victim of injustice, he can’t behave like a garden-variety criminal trying to clear his name. He can’t deal a mortal blow to institutions of supreme importance to democracy just to save his skin. The prime minister has a national responsibility. This responsibility also and especially includes preserving the reputation and credibility of these institutions.

If Netanyahu thinks the police, the prosecution and the attorney general are persecuting him, he should resign and do battle with them. But as long as he remains the prime minister, his denunciations of them are illegitimate. If no less a person than the prime minister thinks these institutions are acting unfairly, what will the ordinary citizen think? How will he trust them?

The worse the prime minister’s legal situation gets, the greater the damage he does to the country. From attempts to enact ad hominem and retroactive laws to save his skin (like one to adopt the French practice of barring investigations of sitting prime ministers and one to bar police from making their recommendations to indict public), Netanyahu has moved on to unbridled attacks on Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich, whom he himself appointed, and then to criticizing the practice of letting suspects turn state’s evidence, even though the right address for this criticism would actually be Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, who approves all state’s evidence agreements.

Netanyahu seems to have adopted a policy of “let me die with the Philistines.” But no country can accept a situation in which its leader puts his own welfare over that of his citizens. His partners in the governing coalition must break their silence, cease their petty political calculations and understand that national responsibility rests on their shoulders. Netanyahu cannot remain in office.

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