I felt compelled to write a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu. And, no, I am not holding my breath.
Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu:
In the 50 years that I have been a pro-Israel activist, and in the decade since I made Aliyah, I have never felt such a feeling of despair and shame. Not about Israel and its people and promise, but about its leadership and politics. I fear for the Zionist enterprise.
I have not always agreed with every policy or statement of the Israeli government and its political leaders. But I have always been able to explain policies, put them in context, and demonstrate that they are part of the give-and-take of a robust Israeli democracy.
No longer. I cannot explain how the Israeli democracy has a Prime Minister charged with serious crimes involving breach of trust and bribery, nor how he does not feel compelled to resign for the sake of the country. It is difficult if not impossible to find any healthy democracy where this has happened.
You are, of course, entitled to a presumption of innocence and to a strong and full defense. Part of that would be an aggressive counter-argument to the prosecution’s case. However, to remain in office and to attack the judiciary and your opponents and to encourage the behavior of your allies in the manner you have undermines Israel’s democratic foundations.
I am ashamed of what you and some of your allies are doing. I cannot defend or explain your actions. You and your allies falsely and maliciously assert that the investigation and prosecution amount to an “attempted coup.” You and your allies falsely and maliciously allege some vast conspiracy consisting of the media, the “left,” the police, the investigators, and the prosecution that is out to get you.
Incredibly, you allege that an Attorney General and police leaders that you appointed are part of this fantastic vast conspiracy. Undoubtedly with your orchestration, some of your ministers and others beholden to you show up at your first Court hearing attacking the proceedings and those responsible for enforcing the law, questioning their legitimacy and thereby undermining faith in Israel’s legal and judicial processes and institutions.
Law enforcement and prosecution personnel have been viciously attacked and threatened. The word “traitor” has been thrown around. They now require extraordinary security, and they undoubtedly and legitimately fear for their safety and that of their families. Attacks on the judges involved have already begun. If the judges rule against you, one can only imagine the attacks you and your allies will engage in.
On many occasions I have heard you boast about the strong, independent, honest Israeli judiciary. You have heralded it as evidence of Israel’s democracy. How do you explain your years of these assertions in light of your current attacks? Were you lying then or are you lying now? Or did the corruption of these great institutions happen just in time to come after you?
I have also proudly held Israel’s judiciary out as one of its great democratic pillars, as have many of Israel’s strongest advocates. How will any of us do so after the Prime Minister and many of his allies have spent months, probably years, tearing into that judiciary?
Prime Minister Menachem Begin chose not to annex Judea and Samaria. He clearly refrained from doing so not out of fear of the reaction of any foreign country or person, including the President of the U.S. If he held such fears, he would not have extended sovereignty over Jerusalem or the Golan Heights.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who voted against the Camp David Accords and never feared defying anyone, including U.S. Presidents, also chose not to annex the territories. Same with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who also feared no one and nothing.
And same with you, Israel’s longest serving Prime Minister. You have had over a decade to annex Judea and Samaria, but you never did it. The former Prime Ministers and you all knew the costs of unilaterally asserting sovereignty over substantial parts of the territories and effectively having jurisdiction over two or two-and-a- half million Palestinians: combined with the number of Israel’s Arab population, it places Israel’s Jewish identity in serious jeopardy.
It threatens the entire Zionist purpose. You know that and you knew better than to do that. And so you did not do it. Until now.
In order to please your base, to consolidate your power, to ensure that you stay in office and out of jail, you are now willing to take this step and jeopardize Israel’s Jewish identity, the bi-partisan support of its crucial ally, its peace treaty with a country that provides an essential buffer, and more. For nothing: Israel already effectively controls the area.
Your family has given much to Israel and Zionism. You have much to be proud of. Your father was one of its great intellectuals. Your brother gave his life in one of Israel’s greatest military feats. He is a legend. You served bravely in a storied unit, risking your life and suffering wounds. You put Israel on its path to economic success, and you kept Israel safe and economically vibrant for over a decade as Prime Minister.
But what you, and what your allies are doing for you now, to allow you to stay in office and to escape the same justice system every other citizen is subject to, will tarnish your and your family’s legacy. It will overwhelm all that you and they have done. It will define you in history, and it may very well contribute to the destruction of Israel’s democracy and Jewish identity.
I implore you to do what is right: put your country and your family’s legacy first. Resign.