When Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu’s defense rests, judges will address legal questions such as whether prosecutors have demonstrated trade-offs between the benefits the former prime minister received and the actions he took to his benefactors.
They will assess whether media manipulation is tangible enough to be considered an advantage in a bribery transaction. They will judge the credibility of the witnesses; whether the evidence was obtained in a proper manner; whether witnesses were subjected to undue pressure by the police; whether such pressure compromises the credibility of the evidence they have provided; whether Netanyahu’s prosecution was influenced by political or other biases.
The answers to these types of questions, and the eventual verdicts, don’t matter.
Whether or not the court convicts Netanyahu, it was inappropriate for him and his family to contact Shaul Elovitch, owner of Walla! News, and his family, over Walla’s content, while regulators overseen by Netanyahu were reviewing a business transaction between Bezeq and Yes, the companies in which Elovitch held stakes.
It was inappropriate for Netanyahu and his family members to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in “gifts,” including expensive jewelry, from billionaires, whether or not prosecutors established a quid pro quo involving Arnon Milchan.
With all due respect to Netanyahu’s accomplishments – such as the construction freeze in Judea and Samaria in 2009-2010 and the simultaneous talks aimed at a negotiated two-state solution; the Wye and Hevron Accords signed during his first term, which expanded the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority; his Bar-Ilan speech, supporting the creation of a Palestinian state; and the negotiations his administration conducted with the Palestinians in 2013 and 2014, also aimed at a two-state solution – his leadership in power has been inappropriate.
Netanyahu has already served more than 15 years as prime minister, longer than anyone, and regardless of the outcome of his trial, it is simply time to move on. In fact, Netanyahu has been at the helm for well over a year, and life goes on, much like under Netanyahu.
Two others have served as Prime Minister. The country did not collapse or experience major disasters. There were no extraordinary concessions offered to the Palestinians, nor overwhelming capitulations to international pressure.
On the contrary, more than a year after Netanyahu was expelled, Israel underwent a major military operation directed against Gaza that was carried out better than any comparable operations overseen by Netanyahu, and was probably the most successful operation since. the Israeli withdrawal.
The military officers who are actually in charge of the operation remain in their posts regardless of the outcome of the election.
Israel has also just concluded an agreement with Lebanon. Although Netanyahu and others criticize the deal, they criticized it without really seeing it. The situation with Iran is similar. Netanyahu points the finger, but there is no reason to believe there would be any substantial difference had Netanyahu remained prime minister.
Having just had the fifth election since the accusations against Netanyahu became public, it is clear that he has no problem destabilizing the country for his personal benefit, but other than self-promotion, it is unclear what is its political program, if any.
He has become a symbol of the great Israeli movement, but his track record includes the Wye and Hebron Accords, and several rounds of negotiations with the stated goal of creating a Palestinian state.
In the meantime, having someone on trial for political corruption as prime minister, a position that influences the appointments of the attorney general, prosecutor, police chief and others, is a clear conflict of interest for anyone look at the situation with open eyes.
The failure of cowardly and pathetic members of Netanyahu’s sect – like Bezalel Smotrich, Itamar Ben-Gvir and others – to recognize that in a country of nearly 10 million citizens, there is more than one capable person to be Prime Minister, has become idolatry.
There are, in fact, other able-bodied people capable of being prime minister who are not so tainted with the aura of corruption, an aura that Netanyahu has earned through clearly improper actions, whether the court judges them or not criminal.
When you look at parties like Smotrich’s Religious Zionist Party, you have to wonder why, if they support Netanyahu’s return as prime minister, do they continue to exist as separate parties from Likud?
The answer is that, as Smotrich was recently heard to say, even Netanyahu’s staunchest supporters understand that, regardless of his right-wing ideological pronouncements, at the end of the day, Netanyahu cannot really be trusted to anything. Man is a liar in his essence.
Baruch Stein is a writer living in Jerusalem. His work has appeared in the media in the United States and Israel.