Netanyahu Needs a Pardon and a Goodbye

That’s the best way to prevent the next election from bringing Israeli democracy, which is now on its sickbed, to an even more critical state

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Economic Club of Washington, Wednesday, March 7, 2018
Jose Luis Magana/AP

Any doubts about the veracity of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vanished when he sent a clear message from Washington to the partners in his governing coalition, which went like this:

Give me a commitment you’re with me until the next scheduled election in November 2019. Do this even if Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit files an indictment against me, even if I devote myself to my defense in the corruption cases at the expense of neglecting my national duties. If you don’t, I’ll have a new election called before I’m indicted. The 70th anniversary of Israel's founding and the move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem will launch my next election campaign in the proper patriotic style.

Don’t be mistaken, Netanyahu isn’t asking for government stability, but for a form of managed chaos; unstable and scared citizens are the bread and butter of his rule. In the latest video he sent to the nation, he explains who those guys who turned state’s evidence really are: scared and weak criminals who hear from the police, “Give me dirt on Netanyahu, anything at all, if your family, your life, your freedom are important to you.”

You understood correctly the prime minister and Bibi Productions, the ones who brought us the video and “the Arabs are going to the polls in droves,” warning the voters about citizens exercising their democratic right. Now he’s presenting “the state institutions have decided in their hearts to remove the prime minister, but don’t worry, the fight against them has just begun.”

This is a battle for absolute power as Israel’s eternal leader who will obliterate all its enemies and first and foremost the peace process with the Palestinians. After his efforts to control the media failed, Netanyahu must now establish a reality of persecution by removing the competing reality – and the theory of the deep state, which is conspiring in the darkest corners. And that theory that’s being spread by his ministers and mouthpieces in the media is working wonders. Netanyahu is quite proficient in history; he has learned from the very best.

This is the reason journalist Nadav Eyal proposed to Netanyahu, in an article in the Yedioth Ahronoth daily that gave perfect expression to the maxim “putting the cart before the horse,” to resign and receive a pardon with his wife in all the affairs under investigation. That would happen during Israel’s 70th-birthday celebrations. The article launched a fierce debate and was stoned by both Netanyahu’s supporters and his opponents.

But Eyal is trying to defuse a bomb the minute before the timer runs out and we’re all blasted to hell. All those who oppose it, those who are still in the childlike world where the scoundrel must pay the full price and the citizens have the right to enjoy it, don’t understand the danger facing society from Netanyahu in his wounded state. Those willing to endanger everything in return for a picture of Netanyahu entering the prison gates are no better than those willing to risk everything for a full acquittal.

It’s said you know how you begin an election but not how you end one. So here’s some certainty: The next election will bring Israeli democracy, which is now on its sickbed, nearer a critical state. If politicians delude themselves that after they win an additional Knesset seat from the public, Netanyahu will give up all this delight and retire to his dacha in Ma’asiyahu Prison, they should sober up now.

An open process in which Netanyahu buys a pardon in return for his confession and leaves the nightmare years of his rule behind us will be the best deal we can achieve. Otherwise, hold on tight. We’re in for a rough time.