After having turned his back on his voters and on his partners in the Kahol Lavan joint ticket, Benny Gantz is also now turning his back on the values he has publicly preached for over a year. His decision to join forces with criminal defendant Benjamin Netanyahu and form a government with him has necessitated new legislation to make the illegal legal.
The Dery-Pinchasi rule, set by the High Court of Justice in 1993, states that a minister cannot continue serving in the cabinet if he or she were charged with severe crimes. Consequently, legislation is needed to enable Netanyahu to exercise the powers of a vice premier after Gantz becomes prime minister under the rotation agreement between Netanyahu’s Likud and Gantz’s Hosen L’Yisrael party. Yet not only has Gantz broken his promise to enact legislation that would prevent a criminal defendant from being prime minister, now he is even proposing legislation that reverses some of the gains already won in the war on corruption.
The emerging legislation will, for the first time, detail the powers of the vice premier, and effectively exempt him from the Deri-Pinchasi rule. The chairman of the Knesset’s Arrangements Committee, Avi Nissenkorn of Hosen L’Yisrael, said this legislation will legalize the continuance in office “only” of a vice premier charged with grave crimes, not an ordinary minister. But this is shyster lawyering of the lowest kind. It’s not enough that they’re tailoring a law to defendant Netanyahu’s measurements; they’re also creating a position in his own image out of nothing, solely to enable him to evade the law.
It’s hard to stomach this new reality in which people who, until not long ago, presented themselves as warriors against government corruption in general and the corruption attributed to Netanyahu in particular, have now become its defense attorneys. Thanks to Benny Gantz and his colleagues – and only to them – Netanyahu will be able to manage the country and his trial simultaneously.
But Netanyahu’s opponents must not let their despair over Gantz weaken them. They must understand that the war against “Bibi-ism” – a term that has become synonymous with government corruption and deliberate undermining of democracy – has to continue even without Gantz and his gang. This war requires a united, determined opposition that will consistently expose any efforts to undermine the rule of law, the gatekeepers or the legislature’s powers of oversight.
The Supreme Court will also have a key role to play in the war against the moral corruption that Netanyahu and Gantz seek to implement. The court, in its role as the High Court of Justice, has never discussed the question of whether the Dery-Pinchasi rule also applies to the prime minister. Now it will have to rule on whether legislation tailored to defendant Netanyahu’s political plans is constitutional, and whether criteria that apply to civil servants and ministers shouldn’t also apply to the person leading the country and his deputy.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.