Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will stand next to U.S. President Donald Trump Monday night. They will shake hands in front of the cameras and compliment each other generously, in keeping with tradition. Afterward, in the Oval Office, Netanyahu might thank Trump for his inspiration: Look, he’ll say, I just launched a campaign in Israel against the “deep state”; I, too, have resolved to eliminate the gatekeepers, who are supposed to protect the rule of law from the rulers; I, too, am fed up with the checks and balances that stand between me and “the ability to govern.”
Later this week, Netanyahu will address the AIPAC Policy Conference. As is his wont, he will expertly describe the threats facing Israel, he will use statesmanlike rhetoric and will be rewarded with enthusiastic applause.
Back in Israel, meanwhile, his bulldozing emissaries will continue their efforts to destroy Israeli democracy. The most important of them, Culture Minister Miri Regev, who in return for flattering Netanyahu was appointed acting prime minister for the duration of his visit to the United States, lit the fires of incitement already on Saturday night. She compared law enforcement officials to Bigthan and Teresh, two gatekeepers of King Ahasuerus who tried to kill him and were themselves executed. Under cover of the lighthearted spirit of Purim, Regev enunciated the credo of her patron from Jerusalem’s Balfour Street: “The moment they didn’t identify with the king and didn’t agree with the way he ran the kingdom, all the rules vanished. The rule of law became undemocratic ... suddenly the goal of bringing down Netanyahu – excuse me, Ahasuerus – justified any means.”
Regev was not the only one who was sent out to incite. MK Miki Zohar was dispatched to the television studios to check off talking points on the list handed out by the Prime Minister’s Office: “The left cooked up a scheme to oust the prime minister, the media embraced it and the police fell into their trap. You can see how the police are being led by the media and the left,” he explained. Had Zohar waited another day, he could have gotten additional ammunition from the prime minister’s house organ, Israel Hayom, which spoke of “the establishment against the elected government” – all, of course, on the sole initiative of the editors, without any involvement from Netanyahu.
Regev and Zohar, together with their spiritual clone, MK David Amsalem, may be the noisiest of lawmakers, but they are not the only ones who blacken the legislature and pollute the public atmosphere. The polite denunciations by coalition members of the comparisons drawn by Regev must not be allowed to obscure the situation: All of the coalition parties, especially Likud, are collaborators in the disaster that Netanyahu is perpetrating on the rule of law.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.
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