The police’s recent recommendations that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stand trial on two counts of bribery have thrown Israeli society into a whirlpool.
Netanyahu supporters have responded in a number of ways. A small group has condemned him, a large group claim he’s innocent (some employing the help of absurd conspiracy theories) and a third group, which to me are the most interesting, argue that they don’t care about the accusations and think they are unrelated to him being one of the best (some arguing the best) Prime Ministers Israel has seen. This third group of supporters’ argument consists of two main elements. First, that Netanyahu being a great leader means that him no longer holding office would be bad for Israel and therefore anyone who attempts to accuse him of wrongdoing is a left-wing Israel hater. Second, they argue that corrupt or not, cigars, champaign, favors for friends and crappy submarine deals are unrelated to his quality and integrity as a leader. Or to more specific, as our leader.
One cannot ignore the fact that so many supporters are skipping the basics like that he’s innocent until proven guilty and that he’s nowhere close to standing trial or being convicted and go straight to arguing that even if he is guilty, they don’t care and neither should anyone else.
In a sense, it seems these supporters are employing a form of cognitive dissonance in order to legitimize their support of Netanyahu. But no matter how much they try to separate the two matters, he’s potential guilt and his merit as a leader are one and the same.
If Netanyahu is guilty, and I highlight “if” because we are far from that point then by definition, he would not have been a good Prime Minister. Corruption always has a price. Doing impure favors for friends and making warped deals as a public servant is always at the expense of someone and that someone is us – the citizens of Israel. In addition to that, the damage that were to be inflicted upon our country if another one of our Prime Ministers were to be convicted is unimaginable. Not to mention the damage that would be done to the office of the Prime Minister as a whole and the example set for the next generation of leaders.
Let me be clear: this is not about politics, this is not about Right or Left. This goes to the heart of our country and our leadership who hold in their hands our lives and our future.
A leader who is corrupt, who takes bribes and does favors for friends on the backs of his citizens is in no way acting in the best interest of his country. That the essence of the position and office he holds. Being a public servant means taking care of your country first and putting your personal greed aside. It means what’s best for your country is what guide’s you in every step you take. If Netanyahu is guilty then he has failed the very basic aspect of leadership and public service. Trying to compartmentalize and separate Netanyahu’s accused crimes and his merit as a leader and a Prime Minister is impossible.
Israelis are hurt right now. We feel like we may have been betrayed by the person we gave our trust to. Even though we don’t know yet, its hard not to react. Some of us will live in denial for now and some will attack him. But regardless of what we are feeling at this very moment, lying to ourselves is not the answer. For our own sake, we must recognize the gravity of the situation and stay objective.