Another Israeli prime minister is indicted, another election comes up sterile
If President Trump is impeached by the House, it will not constitute a criminal indictment. Even if he is removed by the Senate, he will not be tried and not go to jail. Still, look how this impeachment process is convulsing the country, however it may turn out.
By contrast, the prime minister of Israel stands indicted criminally. He could go to jail. He is, of course, innocent until proven guilty, and he has not been proven guilty. He has a right to fight the charges that he says are spurious. Even if he is right, the whole affair is shoddy, a poor reflection on Israel. Blame Netanyahu, if that is your predilection; blame Israel’s criminal process, if that is your predilection. Either way, this affair does not reflect well on Israel.
Of course, one could say that the turn of events does testify to the rock bottom character of Israel as a democracy, because even the prime minister is not above the law. Well, that would be like saying Watergate and President Nixon’s resultant resignation reflected well on America. They didn’t. They besmirched this country. They were an embarrassment. Same with Israel.
Not to mention, this indictment is not a first. Hardly more than a decade ago, another Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, was not only criminally indicted but convicted. He served years in jail. Still not done: Olmert’s crimes left Jerusalem with a gigantic eyesore in the form of huge, ugly condominiums that deface a previously beautiful part of the Holy City.
Not to mention, Netanyahu’s indictment comes at a time of electoral paralysis. Israel has gone through two elections in six months (April, 2019 and September, 2019) with no coalition government emerging as a result. Desperate to avoid a third election, Israel’s president has taken the unprecedented step of asking the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, to come up with a parliamentary majority. It is very unlikely that the same party members who could not coax their leaders to form a government in one forum — a top-down, candidate-driven, coalition negotiation — can now coax their leaders to accept a government in another forum, this one bottom-up. Which means that Israel faces a third election, this time with the prime minister under indictment and with no foreseeable prospects for different electoral results.
Whatever PR spin one wishes to put on all this, there is no escaping the cold, incontrovertible fact that the whole process surrounding Israel’s current and potential prime minister is one huge embarrassment for the State of Israel.
The one saving grace, surely not a small one, is that an experienced government, however temporary, remains in place; and that on the developments facing Israel that matter most of all — security dangers — the current prime minister, Netanyahu, and the potential prime minister, Benny Gantz, agree on how to respond. In this last round of missiles fired from Gaza, to which Israel responded, Netanyahu and Gantz agreed. On the immediately prior Israeli move of assassinating a “ticking bomb,” an Islamic Jihad leader who had blood on his hands from previously unprovoked terror attacks on Israel, and who was planning more in the immediate future, Netanyahu and Gantz agreed.
Not a small thing, all of Israel’s distractions, instabilities and embarrassments notwithstanding.
Copyright © 2019 by the Intermountain Jewish News