Michael Boyden

One step closer to a dictatorship

Many, like me, will have listened with anxiety to Benjamin Netanyahu’s lengthy, ad hoc, but pre-planned press conference that preceded his going into court this afternoon. He was surrounded by many of his closest political allies, ministers and deputy ministers as though this were a political trial rather than a court case dealing with charges against him for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. What he effectively said was that putting him on trial was none other than an attempt by the Left to carry out a putsch.

Having failed to win elections against him on repeated occasions, they were now seeking to depose him by a manipulation of the judicial process. He accused former Police Commissioner, Roni Alsheich, and the media of being party to this and Attorney General, Avichai Mandelblit, of having only agreed to press charges following blackmail against him.

It should be recalled that both Roni Alsheich and Avichai Mandelblit were his appointees. Alsheich was formerly deputy head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, and Mandelblit served as Chief Military Advocate General.

These are no light-weights and to suggest that they were in any way derelict in performing their duty is an insult to public servants who have devoted their professional lives to serving our country.

But what is even more despicable is that Netanyahu has manipulated the media to serve his own political interests. He did that when the coronavirus was a serious threat to Israel. At the time he hadn’t been able to form a government. However, he appeared on television every night to tell us how dangerous the situation was and then took advantage of the opportunity to call on the opposition at a time of emergency to join a national unity government headed by him. And this is the man who accuses the media of being biased against him!

Rather than simply appearing in court to defend himself against the various charges levelled again him, he once again took advantage of the opportunity to blast those who had brought him to trial. This was in his view motivated by the political agenda of his opponents and was, therefore, not only an attack upon him but an attempt to overthrow his Likkud-led government.

At no time did Netanyahu even suggest that he had faith in the judicial process to give him a fair trial and pronounce him innocent.

Democracies are based upon a balance of power between the legislature (in our case, the Knesset), an executive (the police force), and the judiciary. When the authority of and faith in these three branches are brought into question, the flood gates can open resulting in anarchy and subsequently the establishment of a dictatorship.

Netanyahu’s remarks this afternoon brought us one step closer to that.

About the Author
Made aliyah from the UK in 1985, am a former president of the Israel Council of Reform Rabbis and am currently rabbi of Kehilat Yonatan in Hod Hasharon, Israel.
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