Prime Minister Netanyahu- The Apples and Oranges Comparison Mistake

The question at what point Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu should step down  given the two cases he is under investigation for is an intriguing question. This question for his opponents both in and outside of the Likud Party and for those whose interests are concentrated on the well-being of Israel is a major underpinning of Israeli domestic politics today. One only has to understand the aborted attempt in the Knesset to pass a law  which would have limited the police in publishing the conclusions of the investigation of the Prime Minister to understand the power of the investigation on domestic politics.

For those defenders of the Prime Minister the argument runs that “nothing is proven” and until there is a legal conclusion to the Prime Minister situation he has a mandate to stay in office. This argument intricately connects the public and the private domain. It is public in the sense that the Prime Minister has been elected. It is private in the sense that the criteria of his staying in office is based on the legal sense of individual responsibility for defined crimes In other words those who believe the Prime Minister should remain in office untill proven guilty have a perspective of the political system based on a legalistic outlook. This is the apple argument.

Then what is the orange argument? If the apple argument mixes the public domain with the private domain the orange argument remains purely in the public domain. The legal system with its criteria of breaking a law and its consequences has nothing to do with this argument. In receiving gifts of champagne and jewelry from a friend and claiming he received these gifts in effect as a  private citizen the Prime Minister has shown poor political taste. His existence or place in Israel as he is accurately aware of is public. The political adage that in politics not only must be clean but one must appear to be clean applies here. The hard reality is a Prime Minister of Israel or for that matter any one of similar status in any country no longer possesses a private space in the sense of public perception.The criteria for the Prime Minister staying in office in the orange argument is not legalistic; it is a question of public trust. Does the public for instance trust the Prime Minister not to advocate legislation which is directly related to his legal situation. Does the public trust the Prime Minister with his immense powers not to involve Israel in situations which are meant to divert problems away from his legal problems. This rubicon of trust may be passed if the Prime Minister is indicted. From the standpoint of the functionality of the state in which public trust is intimately involved if the Prime Minister is indicted he should resign.

People who belief the present Israeli Prime Minister should resign only if he is convicted of a crime are mixing up apples and oranges in their analysis .His mandate is not based on the legal system but on the public perception of his fulfilling his role in the  best interests of the state. The Prime Mister’s receptions of gifts, his conversations with Aron Moses and his close colleagues involvement in the Submarine Affair begin to break that trust. His resignation is necessary when the public senses that they can no longer trust the Prime Minister to carry out his duties in the public interest. The point could well be reached if and when the Prime Minister is indicted.

About the Author
Born and educated in the United States Edward Stern has spent most of his adult life in Israel with the exception of five years when he lived and worked in China and Korea. He is an English teacher and sometime editor with a life long interest in politics and history. Some people have told him he is also a good photographer.
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