(December 1, 2019 / JNS)
It is no coincidence that as U.S. President Donald Trump’s impeachment inquiry raged in the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, in Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu was being indicted in Israel on charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.
Mandelblit happens to be an old friend and appointee of Netanyahu’s, a fact that makes the story even harder to swallow. Unfortunately, this is the state of politics in 2019.
It’s more than just polarized partisanship, more than overheated rhetoric, more than an exhausting 24-hour news cycles or social-media overload. Having witnessed this phenomenon firsthand, I can tell you that it is ripping apart the very fabric of both America and Israel. It is cruel and unusual punishment that anyone in public life is either now enduring or will have to contend with in the future. It will deter good, decent people from entering the political arena. To call it a slugfest does not do it justice; to call it unmitigated hatred is an understatement.
If they can’t beat you at the ballot box, then why not try to destroy you personally with imaginary tales? I am afraid this is precisely what is happening both in America and Israel.
In the past, faced with such smears, public figures for the most part just called it a day and closed up shop. Today, because the truth is buried beneath piles and piles of rubbish, strong leaders like Trump and Netanyahu counter-punch and dig in for the long haul; voters see more clearly than the media and will ultimately decide their fate.
The impeachment saga has actually boosted Trump and made his winning a second term more likely. The Democrats have taken note and have begun to pull in the reins a little. The indictment of Netanyahu has not had quite the same effect. It has made Israel’s third election this year more difficult to call.
If Israel had a direct election for prime minister, which might indeed be among the ultimate outcomes of the current stalemate in Israeli politics, then Netanyahu would win easily. Unfortunately, the third election, scheduled for January, is no sure thing.
Once again, Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman plays the role of bête noire and spoiler. The Arab parties will gain even more seats; they have learned a thing or two since the Knesset was organized 70 years ago.
Once again, I plea to Lieberman: For the sake of the Jewish people, give up your defiant stance and join Netanyahu, who was responsible for bringing you into politics in the first place.
Hopefully, both America and Israel will learn that attacking a public figure with exaggerated claims and charges, untruths and outright hatred is not in the best interest of our civilization. It brings us all down. We all bear responsibility for what is tearing us apart. Our real enemies are rejoicing at our chaotic behavior, and it is high time to wake up and stop the madness.
Dr. Joseph Frager is first vice president of the National Council of Young Israel.
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