It’s hard to know whether to jeer or simply chuckle at the efforts of Likud MKs, being portrayed by the media as parliamentary clowns, who went beyond the normal to provide what they said was protection for their Prime Minister, but actually was nothing of the kind.
The country is in pretty good shape. Muslims are killing one another in the Sinai; the war in Syria is winding down, and we hear that Assad and the Russians are signaling that they’ll respect Israel’s wish–and threat–about hostile forces too close to its border. The problem of Iran does not appear immediately, and North Korea is primarily bothering others. Israel’s economy is as good as any, with low unemployment, virtually no inflation, and occasional signs that high tech entrepreneurs can sell their innovations for hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars.
Perhaps the overall calm explains the storm focused on a Prime Minister who is at least partly responsible for the good stuff, but up to his kishkes, those of his wife, and a son with respect to allegations of minor and serious wrongdoing.
Some may be bored or dismayed by so much attention to the personal problems of the Prime Minister and his family. But given their status and their hands on public resources, their actions are neither entirely personal nor trivial. They are, in fact, what is consuming the time and efforts of those supplying the contents of our media.
Most prominent has been a proposal, pushed apart way through the Knesset with unusual speed and dedication by its sponsors, to protect the Prime Minister from a police investigation. The key detail is forbidding the police to publicly recommend an indictment after investigations. Promoters have fought to apply the legislation retroactively, i.e., to Bibi and his family.
The hole that makes the entire thing meaningless is that the prosecutor would remain free to request the police for their recommendation. Moreover, it’s been the practice of prosecutors not to rely on policemen recommendations, but to review sensitive findings for themselves before deciding on an indictment.
Part of the farce were assertions of the Prime Minister some time ago that he indicated his opposition to enactments meant to protect him, while the media broadcast videos of his key aides in close contact with the measure’s promoters during feverish negotiations about what to include in the measure.
Another element of farce appears in the police problems of one prominent promoter for the sake of Bibi. MK David Bitan. The police are concerned with Bitan’s actions while serving in the city government of Rishon L’Zion, and later his actions as a Knesset Member. We’re hearing about bribery, involving leading figures in organized crime.
In contrast with the kid gloves shown by the police when they come to the Prime Minister’s residence, at his convenience, for their inquiries, the police summoned Bitan to the station, and kept him for some 13 hours on one occasion, while they pursued their questioning.
In recent days there have been reports of more coalition MKs with reservations, and some jumping ship with respect to the measure to keep the police from making a public recommendation about prosecution.
Leaks from the police now indicate what seems convincing evidence for demanding and accepting bribes on the part of the Prime Minister.
Participants at demonstrations in favor of more aggressive investigations have grown from hundreds of weeks past to perhaps twenty thousand on the most recent weekend.
Support for the measure meant to help Bibi has unraveled. And with that in the background, the Prime Minister has expressed confidence in his innocence once again, and asking supporters to make it so that such legislation would not apply to him.
One of my notes brought forth the following.
“I’m disappointed that a distinguished academician like yourself can write a piece so resonating of tabloid journalism. After-what is it a year now-possibly and possibly not there are allegations totally unproven that Prime Minister Netanyahu wanted some kind of reciprocity-that is cognac and cigars-if he would do something for the gift givers-what has he done for them-at this point a year ongoing-no one knows. I know of highly honest people-of utter rectitude-who receive cigars and cognac-it is a common gift. . . .
I believe Bibi will be exhonerated. The attacks on his wife Sarah are unconscionable. I am extremely concerned that Israel’s Attorney General is playing politics instead of following the biblical injunction of justice justice you shall follow.”
What’s left of Bibi’s support may be coming from a hardcore base that resembles the political base of his new friend Donald Trump.
In a move directed toward that base, Bibi signed a petition asking the President to reconsider his refusal to provide a pardon to Elor Azaria, convicted of killing an inert Palestinian terrorist who was already near death. The IDF Chief of Staff had reduced Azaria’s light sentence of 18 months by a few months; the man has only a while longer to serve before he qualifies for early release on good behavior. However, the justice of his action continues to be an issue for many Israelis who object to any punishment of a soldier acting–no matter how–against an Arab.
Israelis suspicious of both Bibi and Donald are wondering when a wave of accusations against politicians and media personalities of sexual abuse will begin affecting the President. It’s not hard to find accusers on the Internet. Due to his Constitutional protections, however, Donald’s enemies seem even further than Bibi’s from getting rid of him.
My American correspondent should take comfort from Israelis’ concern for justice. Those who accuse the police and prosecutors of haste need only remember the many years between the first serious accusation against Ehud Olmert and his imprisonment, and the many months thus far used by the police in nailing down details of several accusations against the Netanyahu.
Those of us fearful of too much dithering may take comfort from indications that two of Netanyahu’s appointments to key positions, the Chief of Police and the Legal Adviser to the Government (sometimes called the Attorney General), have expressed their opposition to any special treatment of the people being investigated.
During the time when it appeared that the Knesset would pass a measure protecting Netanyahu, we were already assured that whatever it was would be challenged in the courts.
That, too, would take a long time, would and assure us that justice is being pursued well, or too well.
Not clear to you what’s happening?
You have much company here, among those close to Hebrew media, Hebrew speaking politicians, commentators, and activists.
Reprinted with author’s permission from The Jerusalem Post