History has shown time and again that power corrupts. Netanyahu has proved that even leaders with the best intentions are no exception. What makes democracy so exceptional is its central tenet that the leader serves the state and not the other way around. In stark contrast to this principle, Netanyahu can no longer distinguish himself from the state of Israel. Netanyahu has decided, if he goes down, he will drag the country down with him. Israel’s longest serving prime minister is the biggest threat Israeli democracy has ever faced.
Netanyahu’s lifetime of service to the state of Israel is indisputable. As Prime Minister, Netanyahu transformed Israel into an economic powerhouse and solidified its standing in the world by crafting relations with countries around the globe. If Netanyahu walked away from politics with honor, he would have been remembered as a titanic leader of the state of Israel. He would have stood with the founders in legacy; now he will fall as a divisive leader who forsook his own country.
With an indictment imminent, Netanyahu was vastly losing support from moderate Israeli voters. In order to replace the loss of his moderate base and hold off a coalition headed by three former chiefs of staff, Bibi joined forces with the far-right, including extremist barred from serving in government. He even partnered with non-Zionist religious parties bitterly opposed to Zionism and the IDF. It is hard to fathom how a coalition which includes a prime minister facing criminal charges, political parties against IDF service and parties who have no regard for human rights is in Israel’s best interests over three former chiefs of staff who have committed their lives to service and keeping Israel safe. Bibi’s political maneuvering demonstrated that he would sacrifice any and all Zionist values to remain in office. Despite it all, he failed to receive enough votes to form a government in three straight elections. It was only a global pandemic that allowed Netanyahu to form an emergency government. After betraying Zionist values, Netanyahu now has his sights set on Israeli democracy.
Netanyahu is currently taking Israel into unchartered waters as its first prime minister to face a criminal trial while in office; a circumstance with little or no precedent anywhere in western democratic history. Perhaps you can remember, Netanyahu himself once publicly demanded his predecessor Ehud Olmert step down from the Prime Minister’s office before facing trial for corruption. The thinking then, as it should be now, is that It is illogical to expect a prime minster to be completely focused on running the country while simultaneously trying to avoid prison. There is simply no way a serving prime minster whose top priority is defending himself at his own criminal trial is putting Israel’s interests above his own.
Netanyahu’s pretrial tirade on Sunday proved this very point. The prime minister, tasked with upholding democracy and rule of law, instead vigorously attacked the institutional pillars of democracy. The serving prime minister is attacking the courts, law enforcement and of course the media. Bibi should be reminded; nations where law enforcement dares not to investigate public officials, where courts dare not to convict those in power and media dare not criticize the leader are not democracies. Netanyahu seeks to weaken the courts, delegitimize law enforcement and silence the press. For 72 years, Israel has been a beacon of a successful democracy. So, the question that Israelis must ask themselves is why Netanyahu is doing what he is doing? Are Bibi’s actions in the best interests of the country or are they in the best interests of Benjamin Netanyahu?
Netanyahu looked the Israeli people straight in the eye and proclaimed the justice system is coordinating with the media to carry out a left-wing coup against a right-wing government. Yes, the same justice system that indicted, tried and convicted the previous left-wing prime minister, the right-wing attorney general appointed by Netanyahu himself and the right-wing police chief appointed by Netanyahu himself are carrying out a left-wing coup according to Netanyahu. Bibi’s pretrial speech was simply a theater of the absurd.
Years from now Likud and Blue and White politicians will need to answer how they stood behind a single man bringing down the institutions of Israeli democracy. Strong democratic institutions ensure a democracy can outlast any serving government. Netanyahu is putting Israeli democracy to the test.