Getting Rid of Netanyahu at All Costs

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Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset, December 2021.
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset, December 2021.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

The race to stamp “moral turpitude” on Benjamin Netanyahu’s forehead is the race to remove him from our lives. This is not a legitimate pursuit. Netanyahu’s removal is of course a legitimate political goal, but it must be achieved by legitimate means. A deal whose sole purpose is to remove him from public life is not a legitimate deal, even if it’s convenient for one side, or even for all sides. The very desire to assign moral turpitude to his offenses is the greatest proof that his indictment had a political motive. This motive must not be allowed to decide his fate and end the matter.

If this trial ends with a whimper – with the withdrawal of counts, with community service and a fine, anything as long as moral turpitude is assigned – it will be clear that his removal, at least on the face of it, was always the primary goal. That cannot be the goal of the justice system, certainly not of the attorney general and the prosecution. Such an end would also raise the question of whether he should have been charged in the first place, or at least whether the pathos in the descriptions of his alleged schemes was appropriate. Did he really deserve to be called the most corrupt politician in Israel’s history?

On Sunday a commission of inquiry into the submarine affair will be hastily appointed. Nothing for months from the “government of change,” and then overnight there’s a commission. The reports of an imminent plea bargain miraculously turned the wheels of governmental justice, too. An inquiry commission, just to be on the safe side, in case Netanyahu manages, heaven forbid, to give the slip to the court as well. The day he is removed will also be the day the government ends, to be replaced by a fully right-wing government, an ideological twin to the current one, but as I said, for his detractors, ousting Netanyahu trumps all. They are still afraid. They are so afraid they’re willing even to forgo their government, as long as Netanyahu is gone. It is hard to see the logic in it, but Netanyahu – as is well known – has driven our entire system mad. Nothing rational remains.

The lust to remove him defies all reason. He left Balfour Street, he leads the opposition now, he has little chance of returning to power, and it doesn’t satisfy his haters. They want him in a prison uniform, or at the very least as far from them as possible. Why do they find him so threatening? Only they know.

It’s impossible to ignore the fact that he is still the most popular and the most hated politician in Israel. His ouster will fix nothing; it will only satisfy his haters’ lust for vengeance. To determine whether he deserves to be removed using the tools of law, the judicial process must be exhausted. A deal now, with an attorney general whose ultimate goal is clearly Netanyahu’s removal, will make him a martyr to his fans – and for good cause. It’s easy to advise him to fight for his innocence to the end, but with the system so invested and enlisted against him, his chances are slim. It is also possible that his actions were indeed criminal and that he deserves to be punished, perhaps more harshly than the plea bargain entails. But it is not the prosecution that should decide his fate, and certainly not his haters, for whom his removal is the epitome of their self-actualization and civil engagement. After all, they manned the Balfour barricades in the wind and rain, with bandanas and inflatable dolls. When else, for what else, have they fought like that? Now they want their reward. His complete removal is the minimum that will satisfy them. And what to tell his supporters? That Netanyahu rubs a certain side of the political map the wrong way, that the desire to see him ousted filled it with vigor and gave content to its hollow, wilted political life, so it employed the justice system to get rid of him. It will be hard to counter, certainly on an emotional level.

Perhaps it would have been better had this trial not been born, if this is the impending result. Since it was born, there are two options: Close the cases – sorry, our bad – or go all the way.

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