The criminal suspicions linked to Benjamin Netanyahu are increasing in number and degree, his associates are in and out of police interrogation rooms, his supporters are viciously attacking the rule of law, setting the stage for the delegitimization of government institutions in the eyes of half the nation — and Netanyahu’s coalition partners continue to back the prime minister.
It might be too much to expect Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who by the skin of his teeth avoided prosecution in one of the most serious corruption investigations in Israeli political history, or Interior Minister Arye Dery, an ex-convict who has since been implicated in new allegations, to serve as role models in this case. But the position of Education Minister Naftali Bennett (“I would never forgive myself for bringing down a government whose path I believe in”), who heads a camp that purports to be particularly ethical, and the silence of Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who crowned himself “the defender of the courts” and “the responsible adult in the cabinet,” are no less than shameful.
Kahlon and Bennett, each for his own political reasons, don’t want the government to fall or for Netanyahu to be replaced with a different Likud figure. That is why they are not taking a clear, unequivocal ethical position on the shocking findings coming out of the investigations of the prime minister. It won’t be long before the Netanyahu era comes to an end, and their silence will be remembered as a weak and cynical display. Also worthy of condemnation are the ultra-Orthodox politicians, who are only interested in the needs of their own community, ignoring all other considerations. This is the behavior of a group of individuals with vested interests who are tied together in a utilitarian relationship, not of a properly functioning government in a democratic state.
After Shlomo Filber, the former Communications Minister director general, agreed to turn state’s evidence, and it was reported that Nir Hefetz, a close Netanyahu confidant, allegedly offered the position of state attorney general in exchange for closing a criminal investigation against the prime minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, the coalition partners cannot remain silent. The usual arguments, on the need to wait for the attorney general to decide whether or not to prosecute and the right to the presumption of innocence, are not very convincing. They serve as a cover for choosing narrow political interests over the good of the country.
Coalition members who know very well that Netanyahu’s term is quickly coming to an end must take a clear, principled stance against the conduct of the prime minister and his court as it is emerging from these investigations. As long as they remain silent, they provide tacit support for the base language of coalition chairman David Amsalem and the shameful conduct of his Likud colleagues such as MKs Nava Boker and Miki Zohar.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.