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Omerta

In any democracy worthy of the name, the rule of law must be the first and only consideration
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacts to the Israel's Police recommendation he be indicted for bribery in a pair of criminal investigations on February 13, 2018. (Screen capture: Facebook)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacts to the Israel's Police recommendation he be indicted for bribery in a pair of criminal investigations on February 13, 2018. (Screen capture: Facebook)

“Key to the concept of Omerta is that any member of the organization must maintain absolute silence when questioned by law enforcement on the subject of alleged illegal activities by other members of the organization.” — Urban Dictionary

That’s the mafia code. No matter what crime has been committed, or however innocent the victim may have been, you do not go outside “the family.” You do not cooperate with the police. If you have a score to settle, you settle it inside “the family.” Never deal with the authorities. Settle the score privately in the only way you know how.

So, when Yair Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid party and finance minister in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s previous coalition government, was asked to do the duty of any law abiding citizen and cooperate with the police in answering questions as part of their high profile inquiry into Cases 1000 and 2000, according to members of the current coalition government — in particular, those of Netanyahu’s majority Likud party — he became “ a snitch” in agreeing to answer police questions. Shamefully, omerta is their preferred option.

If Lapid hadn’t given evidence to the Lahav 433 investigation — an investigation overseen by police chief Roni Alsheikh and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, both highly respected public servants appointed on Netanyahu’s watch — in essence, he would have been obstructing the course of justice, which is in itself a criminal offense.

In other words, some of Israel’s most senior politicians are advocating non-cooperation with the police and with the attorney general’s office, and advocating criminality. They are suggesting that if there is any evidence that might compromise the prime minister and possibly expose him as having lied and been party to corruption, that evidence should never see the light of day because Lapid was once Netanyahu’s cabinet colleague.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5m4jpUyb-g

The question of Lapid possibly becoming a principal beneficiary should Netanyahu be forced to step aside is incidental. In any democracy worthy of the name, the rule of law is the first and only consideration.

Coalition chairman David Amsalem (Likud), a close friend of Netanyahu, was brazen in his attempt to undermine Lapid, and in embracing the concept of omerta. “You’re a pathetic snitch. Aren’t you ashamed?!”

Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), Deputy Foreign Minister, chimed in, “The most absurd thing is that the police’s central witness is a man who wants to replace Netanyahu as prime minister!”

Is Hotovely really suggesting that because Lapid might benefit politically from Netanyahu’s demise, his evidence — possibly crucial evidence — should not even be considered by the police? If Lapid has lied under oath, he will be exposed. His own political career will be left in tatters. Has Hotovely thought of that?

Personally, I don’t trust any politician. I’ll watch on (like so many other bemused citizens of this country) with a degree of morbid interest as events unfold over the course of the next few months. How many metaphoric political corpses will we be forced to witness, and who, if anyone, will break ranks from the coalition and challenge the code of omerta?

Tzipi Livni, of the Zionist Union, summed up the depressing downward spiral in the morality of a government that seems willing to hang on to power by legal or illegal means, setting a benchmark for Israeli society that prompts many honest, law abiding citizens to plumb the depths of despair.

“The threats to Lapid, who fulfilled his civic duty and testified to the police when he was asked to … are obstruction of justice and part of the orchestrated campaign to save Netanyahu at the price of destroying democracy.”

To paraphrase Marcellus in Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “Something is rotten in the State of Israel.”

About the Author
Paul Alster is an Israel-based broadcast journalist with a special interest in the Israel/Palestinian conflict and Middle East politics. He is a regular contributor to a variety of international news websites including The Jerusalem Report, and was formerly FoxNews.com's main Middle East correspondent. He can be followed on Twitter @paul_alster or at www.paulalster.com.
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