Ever since the criminal investigations against him began, and even more so since the attorney general decided to indict him, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has held the state hostage in his efforts to escape justice.
The Jerusalem District Court decided this week that the evidentiary stage of his trial will start in January. It also decided that the case will be heard three days a week. Netanyahu was the first to conclude that demands for him to declare himself incapacitated as prime minister were only a matter of time, since the trial schedule can’t be reconciled with running the country, especially at a time of crisis. So, being a leader devoid of any sense of responsibility or of red lines, he did the only thing he excels at – starting preparations to drag Israel into yet another election, as was reported by Haaretz's Chaim Levinson on Wednesday.
After forcing the country into three previous destructive elections, which swelled the deficit and weakened public faith in the political system; after convincing the public of the necessity of national unity; after boasting about flattening the coronavirus curve, announcing a return to normalcy and thereby leaving Israelis vulnerable to a second wave; after neglecting the handling of the coronavirus to devote his time to delusions of annexation; after devoting most of his energy to weakening his political partners and attacking the justice system; after choosing to arrange tax breaks for himself at the expense of the country and its citizens, and then, to “correct” the bad impression this left, deciding to pay political hush money to the public; after a million people have registered as unemployed and economic protests have gained momentum from day to day – after all this, Netanyahu seems determined not to pass the 2020 budget and thereby create more political chaos that will end in elections. Not, heaven forbid, because of his own failings, but only to avoid the justified demand that he declare himself incapacitated.
A criminal defendant cannot serve as prime minister, and especially not at a time when public trust is essential to cope with both a viral plague and an economic plague of historic proportions. Netanyahu has proven over and over that in a choice between himself and the country, he will always choose himself. At this point, the only responsible thing to do to avoid destabilizing the country once again is to declare Netanyahu incapacitated – and the sooner the better.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.