Busy While Awaiting Trial
On his way to court to hear the charges against him and to confirm that he understood them, Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed the nation to “explain” what all that was really about: the Left could not defeat him at the ballot box. (In fact, Likud, the party he leads, got more and more votes in successive elections. No single political party in Israel has ever had greater support.) Therefore, his political opponents decided to unseat him by abusing the judiciary (encouraged by the attorney-general and former cabinet secretary), the police (including its former national chief) and, of course, the media. He reiterated the mantra that the charges are pure fiction, invented by forces of evil.
The argument by Netanyahu and his followers is that the attack is not really against him personally, but against democracy in Israel, indeed the ship of state. His critics argue the opposite: his and his supporters’ attacks on the institutions of justice seek to subvert democracy in the land.
The prime minister assured us in his speech that because of his commitment to the Jewish state and the Jewish people, he would overcome the stumbling blocks the Left placed before him. Several of his cabinet colleagues stood by his side to confirm their support trying to assure us that he and he alone is the worthy leader of the nation. The Netanyahu era is not over yet.
Netanyahu’s legal team asked not to start proceedings before next March, but the court decided to go ahead in mid-July. Between now and then the prime minister will have his hands full with matters of state: security on Israel’s borders made recently even more problematic by the threats from Iran, and the need to deal with the corona epidemic – now in decline, though a second wave is not impossible – by balancing the demands of the ministry of health against the needs to help the economy to recover.
And, of course, the annexation issue will loom large. It is part of the current government’s program to which Likud’s partner Blue and White seems to have acquiesced, perhaps in the vain hope that the project would never materialize. But Netanyahu seems bent on getting there while Trump is still president, as it is by no means certain that he will be re-elected.
Annexation is also important to Netanyahu because it would render irrelevant the political party, led by Naftali Bennet, that describes itself as being “to the right” (Yemina) and supports the settlers. It is already in opposition and, with Netanyahu’s help, it may end up in oblivion.
Yes, American Jewry may protest, but that may not matter very much. To start with, Jewish institutions seem to be financially depleted by the corona crisis and politically divided, as reflected in the tensions within the Conference of Presidents. And infinitely more important: compared to the support for annexation by the evangelicals, objections by some Jews are insignificant.
The Palestinians do not count for much either. Though they have threated to break all security ties with Israel, everybody knows that they are more dependent on Israel than is Israel on them and that breaking ties would enable Hamas to take over. Jordan has also expressed its disapproval of annexation, as have the Europeans, but they do not seem to count for much either. The other Arab states seem to have given up on both the Palestinian and the Jordanian leaders – in favor of better ties with Israel.
Where is Gantz and his Blue and White party in all this? So far, nowhere in sight. Alas.
Jerusalem 25.5.20 Dow Marmur