Editorial

On His Way Down, Netanyahu Serves the Israeli Public Absurd Logic

The prime minister proves at every opportunity that in the battle for his political survival, there are no limits. This is not how a premier behaves

File photo: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, January 6, 2019.
Gali Tibbon/Reuters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu goes from bad to worse. After he dismantled his government and decided to drag the country into elections because of the allegations against him, he attacked the judicial system, lest the attorney general dare issue his decision on whether to prosecute him before the election.

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On Saturday, he posted a video on Facebook in which he likened two injustices: The injustice that would be done to Israeli citizens if a hearing on the allegations starts but doesn’t end before the elections, and the injustice done to a man “in a certain Middle Eastern country” whose hand was amputated before it turned out he had been wrongly convicted of theft.

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This video marks a new low in the prime minister’s conduct. Netanyahu proves at every opportunity that in the battle for his political survival, there are no limits. The justice system, government institutions and civil servants, and democratic values are all fair game for unbridled attacks by the man who is meant to be defending them.

Apparently Netanyahu’s assumption is that Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit will decide to indict him, subject to a hearing at which he will be given a chance to explain himself. It appears that these new circumstances have forced Netanyahu to update his message. If the slogan during the investigations was, “There will be nothing because there was nothing,” the updated slogan is, “You don’t start a hearing before the elections if it isn’t completed before the elections.” The absurd logic he wishes to convey to the public is that if there’s no chance for Mendelblit to finish the hearing process before the elections, it is forbidden for him to start it.

On Sunday former Supreme Court Justice Eliahu Mazza justifiably criticized the prime minister for his call to avoid making decisions on his cases before the election. “In my entire career I don’t recall such talk against the law enforcement authorities by anyone who wasn’t the head of a crime organization,” he told Kan Reshet Bet.

Netanyahu’s problematic message joins the dubious threats made by coalition chairman David Amsalem, who recently said, “If someone decides to prosecute the prime minister in these delusional cases, millions of people won’t accept it.” Netanyahu and his minions are seeking to undermine the legitimacy of the attorney general even issuing a decision.

Legal advisers and former state prosecutors made it clear to Mendelblit that he is obligated to publish his decision before the election. Some 64 percent of the public also thinks so, according to a poll by “Meet the Press”. What’s more, someone who believes in his innocence and claims that “there was nothing” should actually insist on the attorney general issuing his decision before the election so that he has an opportunity to clear his name and remove the cloud of suspicion hovering over him.

Netanyahu’s broad delegitimization campaign must stop. This is not how a premier behaves. This is not how an innocent man behaves. On Sunday it became known that Mendelblit expects to issue his decision next month. One must hope that Netanyahu’s threats don’t influence him in any way.

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