Editorial

Mendelblit, Block Your Ears

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit at the Israel Democracy Institute, Jerusalem, May 18, 2019.
Emil Salman

If it hadn’t dissolved itself, Israel’s 21st Knesset would have sworn its allegiance to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s fifth government on Monday. Instead, Israel is heading to an election again, scheduled for September 17.

This is additional, definitive proof that a prime minister cannot remain in office when up to his neck in legal investigations, and when three indictments (pending a hearing) are hovering over him, since “there are concerns – not baseless ones, either – that he may make decisions based on his personal interest of political survival, and not based on national interests, by virtue of being in this particular crisis.” This is what Netanyahu himself said in 2008, when referring to his predecessor, Ehud Olmert.

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It’s clear to all that the most recent election was moved up at Netanyahu’s initiative due to his personal interest of political survival, and that there was absolutely no aspect of national interest involved in holding the election early. Netanyahu moved up the election so that it would be held before Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit could announce his decision on the investigations of the prime minister, and in the hope of preventing publication of that decision. 

An entire country was dragged to the polls when it was clear to all that should Netanyahu win, he would reassemble a government more or less like his previous one and that, despite denying this in an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 News, this government’s first task would be advancing retroactive, tailor-made legislation with one goal: Saving Netanyahu from the arm of the law.

The move to disband the Knesset, too, was not made in order to preserve national interests. It’s clear to all that the real reason that Netanyahu failed to pull together a government was not the bill on drafting ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students, but rather political power games, which were the result of Netanyahu’s weak legal position. The prime minister’s unstable legal footing has affected his judgment, and exposed him to exploitation by other political actors. Israel has become a hostage to the needs of the suspect from Balfour Street.

Sources close to Netanyahu believe that he’s now likely to take advantage of the upcoming election to ask Mendelblit to delay his hearing once again, even though Mendelblit already announced about a week ago that the hearing would be delayed by three months, until October 2 to 3.

Amid this political bedlam, the state prosecution in general and Mendelblit in particular need to block out all the background noise and political pressure, and stick to the process that they themselves set. “Only the rule of law is what concerns us,” said Mendelblit last week, adding, “We don’t serve anyone aside from the public interest and the rule of law. No pressure has influenced us, nor will any pressure influence us in the future.” Let’s hope that Mendelblit can stick to his word.

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