Netanyahu Keeps Trying to Evade Prosecution, Like Some Criminal on the Lam

Haaretz Editorial
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears at the Jerusalem District Court at the start of his corruption trial, Jerusalem, May 24, 2020.
Haaretz Editorial

Benjamin Netanyahu is continuing his efforts to evade prosecution, as if he was not the prime minister but some criminal on the lam. He’s activating his attorneys endlessly, trying to exhaust the court and delay the hearings in his case. Netanyahu is doing this to buy time, until he can arrange an escape route with the help of the Knesset – a privilege no ordinary citizen gets, and which reeks of corruption.

On Tuesday the Jerusalem District Court rejected a request by Netanyahu’s lawyers to once again delay the evidentiary hearings in his case. The next hearing is scheduled for February 8, after it had already been delayed two weeks ago because of the lockdown.

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Last time, the coronavirus crisis was the grounds used to ask for the postponement. In their letter, Netanyahu’s attorneys Amit Hadad and Boaz Ben Tzur waxed lyrical, saying, “These are the days of general lockdown in the State of Israel.” Without any shame they argued that because of the cabinet decision to restrict the economy, their office was working with limited personnel, which would make work difficult for the defense. They also claimed that these constraints were not in Netanyahu’s control. (“It’s self-evident that these constraints were not anticipated in advance, and were not in the control of the petitioner and his representatives.”) The judges dismissed the request, but later decided to postpone the hearing on their own initiative.

It seems that this time even Netanyahu’s lawyers were too embarrassed to recycle the lie that their client is not the one whose hand is on the country’s switch, opening and closing it at his discretion. The grounds they based the request on this time was the need to wait for the attorney general to decide if Bezeq, Walla and Yedioth Ahronoth were also going to be prosecuted. The prosecution said this was “a request of a type never before submitted in the Israeli legal system” and urged the court to summarily dismiss it.

The judges did the right thing by rejecting the new request as well. When a man accused of crimes serves as prime minister, the situation becomes intolerable. Time after time it’s obvious that the considerations guiding Netanyahu in his decision-making are not relevant, but are linked to his effort to avoid trial, entrench his rule and put together a coalition that will grant him immunity, or that will advance legislation that will benefit him legally.

Netanyahu certainly will find some other excuse for postponing his trial; if he won’t try again to apply the lockdown to the legal system, he’ll do everything possible to delay the inevitable and evade justice. The court is obligated to make sure this trial continues on schedule, with no unnecessary delays. The February 8 hearing must take place as scheduled, and the prime minister must understand that he is not above the law.

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