(January 8, 2019 / JNS) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks on Monday did more than just express his personal feelings about the manner in which the investigations are being conducted against him; they put into words the difficult sense among many Israelis that what we are witnessing is political persecution. The news that Netanyahu has been refused the possibility of confronting the state witnesses is indeed dramatic information. A confrontation is vital for deciphering the truth.
We never heard former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ask for a confrontation with his former confidante and bureau chief Shula Zaken. The argument that such a confrontation did not take place is far-fetched in comparison. According to the attorney general’s guidelines, extra caution should be taken when it comes to investigations and indictments during elections. These guidelines have been neglected in Netanyahu’s case.
The effort to bring down the right-wing government and circumvent the ballot box is transparent. The hostile media, “fake commentators” and motivated attorneys have all joined forces to put the government in left-wing hands. Those who nobly speak of democracy have chosen an alternative path to the will of the voters, and we should be wary of this dangerous path. If there was any doubt of the importance of Netanyahu’s remarks, the reaction, the cynicism and the faces of those well-known commentators were clear proof that the prime minister’s statement was important and consequential.
While I do not question Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit’s integrity, he is under immense pressure, the likes of which I cannot recall in the history of Israeli law. His home, the synagogue in which he prays and even his office have all become centers where others attempt to influence his decision. He understands exactly what will happen should he decide to drop certain charges or lower the alleged criminal threshold of others.
Senior officials in the Israel Police and the State Attorney’s Office and those subordinate to them leave Netanyahu no choice. The way it looks now, the freedom of choice has been impaired. The incomprehensible race to decide whether or not file an indictment ahead of a hearing and without a confrontation only bolsters the claim that filing of an indictment will aid politicians in their election campaign. The public knows all too well what Netanyahu is accused of, including the leaks and the police recommendations; therefore, there really is no need for this excessive race to finish ahead of the election.
Israeli citizens are not naive. No other public in the world is as aware of the goings-on in its country of residence. Any intelligent person understands that if the issue of the relationship between politicians and the media was examined from a criminal perspective, no politician could be found that would come out clean in an investigation and avoid a trial. It is only when it comes to Netanyahu that his conduct vis-à-vis the media takes on a criminal nature.
The pursuit of justice must also be carried out in a just way. At this point, one can get the impression that it is not justice that is important, but the crack through which some believe a revolution can be pushed in the upcoming election.
Dr. Haim Shine is a faculty member of Israel’s Academic Center of Law and Science, and a member of the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors.