Editorial

To Save His Own Skin, Netanyahu Will Destroy the System

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has one goal: to make the public believe that it’s not him but the legal system that is to blame

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on February 25, 2018.
GALI TIBBON/AFP

“Netanyahu has all the luck,” whispered Interior Minster Arye Dery to Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz on Monday. Dery meant that the “text message affair” was like a gift from heaven for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. After all, what could be better for the premier, who is up to his neck in corruption investigations, than a development that he could use to totally delegitimize the judicial system?

After undermining the credibility of the police and turning the media into “Israel’s enemy,” it’s now his turn to do the same to the judges and courts The spin was there for the taking and Netanyahu couldn’t resist.

The Channel 10 exposé Sunday night proves that contrary to Netanyahu’s constant maligning, the media is doing its work faithfully, without taking into account who will be harmed by its investigations. Moreover, in this case it emerged that the people involved actually wanted to offer some relief to the detainees. But when the goal is to delegitimize the legal system, Netanyahu relates to media reports as a reliable and legitimate source.

The legal system acted swiftly and efficiently. Two hours after the report on the exchange of text messages between the legal adviser to the Case 4000 investigators, Eren Shaham Shavit, and the detentions judge, Ronit Poznanski-Katz, the prosecutor was suspended and the judge was put on leave. It was subsequently recommended that she face a disciplinary hearing. 

In the two days since the revelations, the picture is more complex than it first appeared to be. The two were not referring in their messages to the court hearing and weren’t seeking to mislead the suspects’ lawyers, but were coordinating positions in an internal dispute with the police investigators. But this fact didn’t interest Netanyahu and his emissaries to the broadcast studios; nor did the decision by the ombudsman for complaints against judges, who examined the incident, and found that there was no bias of judgment or a conspiracy between the prosecution and the court.

But the true proportions of the incident are of no concern to Netanyahu. He has one goal, and it was achieved: To sow doubt among the public and divert the discussion from his corruption to that of the judicial system; to cause the public to believe that he isn’t to blame, but the legal system; that the law enforcement system should be investigated, not him and to persuade people that the process is tainted, while he is as pure as snow.

To save his skin and escape justice, the prime minister is prepared to destroy the judicial system. To survive he is prepared to undermine public trust in one of the most important pillars of Israeli democracy. Government ministers are saying that despite all the investigations, Netanyahu’s functioning as a responsible prime minister has not been impaired. It turns out that’s not so. The prime minister has set his personal interest over his public role, reinforcing the conclusion that he cannot continue in that role.

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