Notes on the Impeachment of Benjamin Netanyahu

I’ve been arguing with some people on Twitter. They said that “impeachment is not a thing” in Israel. Well, it kind of is. A kind of process took place recently where a committee in the Knesset took up the case of two people, one of whom was the Prime Minister, should be given immunity by that body and therefore be permitted to contest the next election, and even more important be allowed to form the next government.

A judicial action by a legislative body, whatever you call it, is an impeachment…of sorts, so it counts.

In a democracy, like Israel or the United States, getting rid of an obnoxious politician should be, and usually is, done by-elections. That’s fine when it works, and it happens all the time, which is great. But the abuse of democracy by corrupt politicians is another matter. What can be done about that?

Look at Turkey. The last few elections have been fixed, and when the governing party lost the Mayoralty in Istanbul last year, the government pretended that election was corrupt and demanded a re-do, which was done, and gave the opposition an even bigger margin than before. This happens in other countries too.

In Germany last year, the government of Angela Merkel was handed a massive defeat, she got only 33% of the vote. But getting 42% of the seats. Therefore, she made a deal with the totally discredited Social Democrats, who got a mere 20% of the vote and kept her job. She also resigned as leader of her Christian Democrat party, but…get this… she KEPT THE CHANCELLORSHIP!!!! She’s still there, and won’t leave!!!! In fact, she’s been there longer than Hitler or Kaiser Bill. That is not democracy.

IN Canada, the Liberal party of Justin Trudeau lost the election according to the popular vote, and in fact, he lost his majority. But did he go? NO!!! he just kept on keeping on and dared the opposition to get rid of him. They won’t. A dozen or so years ago, the two opposition parties there formed a coalition to get rid of Prime Minister Steven Harper, when they scheduled a vote to get rid of him, the PM ordered the Queen’s representative to prorogue, which means temporarily suspend, parliament, which she did. He remained in power for several years.

Sometimes, politicians do the right thing. When German President Markus Wolf was accused of corruption, he scoffed at it and rightly claimed he was innocent. But when the city of Hannover’s  District Attorney demanded that the Bundestag, as the German parliament is known, lift his immunity from prosecution, Wolf resigned. He was acquitted, but in the next election after that, no one would let him run for a second term. The original resignation was the honorable thing to do.

Just like Yitzak Rabin did way back in 1977 over a very minor tax complication. Rabin’s resignation was one of the most consequential events in Israel’s political history. Could you imagine what the history of Israel would be like if Rabin had refused to resign?

More recently, Ariel Sharon had a massive stroke that left him in a permanent vegetative state. How do you get rid of a prime minister in one of those? This is a real problem and the solution wasn’t a particularly good one. What was worse, was that his replacement, Ehud Olmert, Israel’s previous Prime Minister, was corrupt as hell, and while he announced his resignation, well before, he was still caretaker PM while the trial was beginning. It shamed the nation and put the government in chaos.

…which brings us to Bibi. Whatever you think of his policies on all sorts of issues, the calling of a second election after he failed to form a government last year was a travesty. It was like that Mayoral election of Istanbul mentioned above. This is not how democracy is supposed to work.

After the second election, the Attorney General’s office announced that they were indicting him over several charges relating to corruption and his wife is now a convicted criminal. Under indictment, he may not be able to be allowed to form a government after election three. So Israel had an impeachment.

Impeachment in Israel is not like the kind we have here in the United States (the travesty that was the Trump trial is something that long books will be written about). It’s based on the revisions on the immunity law in 2005 and requires the formation of a House committee, it would be decided whether the Prime Minister or other MK (another one was brought before this tribunal just recently) should be immune from prosecution and thus be allowed to continue to reap the benefits from being an MK for years to come. But just as the tribunal/committee was about to meet, Bibi withdrew his request and his trial scheduled. Impeachment was sort circuited and here we are.

The Supreme court has punted on the issued of Bibi’s being allowed to try to form a government in March (or June, or whenever the fifth or sixth election in a row takes place), but the question still remains: What does Israel do with a Prime Minister who loses and election but won’t leave, or in the case of Sharon, is totally disabled.

This is something that has to be dealt with and soon.

About the Author
Eric Lurio is a freelance writer and artist. He's been a movie critic for the past fifteen years and has been writing about travel and politics since the 1970s. Among his books are "The Cartoon Guide to the US Constitution and "A Fractured History fo the Discovery of America."
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