Jaime Kardontchik
Jaime Kardontchik

Benjamin Netanyahu has the right to a fair trial

I am very deeply concerned about the future of Israel. I am referring not only to its internal social stresses between secular and religious, between Jews and Arabs, but I am also equally and specially concerned by Israel’s capability to resist and successfully overcome external political, economic and security pressures. Israel is a very small country with not many friends in the international arena and does not have the luxury to stay paralyzed by the lack of government for a long period of time. Even a few more months of inaction may have very negative consequences for Israel’s future. A 5th consecutive election round will be very damaging.

Let us remove one big obstacle to the formation of the next Israeli government. People might have completely different opinions regarding the worthiness of Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial. Many believe that it is a just trial against a corrupt politician. Many others believe it is a political maneuver to get rid of a popular leader by means other than the ballot box. In any case, most will agree that the trial has become a big obstacle to the formation of a good and stable government and is causing great harm to Israel.

According to retired judge Carmi Mosek, former head of the Jerusalem District Court [1], Netanyahu’s corruption trial could last several years.

As a practical (but also quite principled) way out, I propose the following: A new law should be presented and approved with no delay by the new Knesset.

The new law regards the rights of a Prime Minister, during and after serving in office, to a proper defense against any allegations of crimes he/she allegedly committed while she/he served as Prime Minister. The law will simply state that the State should provide monetary assistance to the Prime Minister (or former Prime Minister) for an appropriate defense of his/her case, commensurate with the resources allocated by the State to the State prosecution. Furthermore, the law will reaffirm that he/she is considered explicitly innocent, with all the rights pertaining to innocent people, until proven guilty by the Court.

This law will provide a natural extension to the right of any individual citizen to a fair defense against excesses of an overzealous prosecution, specially the one that is funded by the unlimited resources of the State.

This law will apply also to Benjamin Netanyahu. Hopefully, this will help the speedy formation of the new government under Yuli Edelstein as Prime Minister [2]. I really do not see any other candidate that could command immediate respect and recognition both internally and in the international arena.

This law will not solve all the problems of the executive and judicial branches of Israel, but these other problems can be dealt later on in a quieter manner. Essentially, I think that Israel should follow (with one exception) the United States in these matters. Translated to Israel, it means: 1) institute a maximum of 8 years total (consecutive or not) for one person to serve as Prime Minister, 2) when a vacancy in the Supreme Court opens, the Prime Minister, at his/her discretion, should propose to the Knesset a candidate (or candidates) to fill this position, 3) the candidate will be reviewed by the Knesset. If the candidate does not get the approval of the Knesset, the nomination goes back to the Prime Minister, who can propose another candidate. The only essential difference with respect to the US will be in instituting a term limit of 20 years of service for any Judge in the High Court (in the US, a Supreme Court Judge can stay in his/her post until his/her death). The upper term limit is to recognize that even the best Judges, who were sworn in to upheld and be guided only by the Law, are also human beings with biases, and that individual and societal biases change with time and have to be corrected and improved from time to time. A timely scheduled retirement serves this purpose. A 20-year term limit also serves to achieve the needed stability of the Law against capricious temperamental impulses of a given Prime Minister or Knesset, or even transient social currents within the general public.

[1] Times of Israel, April 3, 2021, “Retired judge predicts Netanyahu graft trial will last at least 3 years”

[2] Times of Israel, March 30, 2021, “A practical solution to Israel’s deadlock”, by Jaime Kardontchik

About the Author
Jaime Kardontchik has a PhD in Physics from the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology. He lives in the Silicon Valley, California.
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