A Politicized Coup by the Israel
By Martin Sherman
February 26, 2018
since Benjamin Netanyahu was elected to lead Likud, and particularly after he
became prime minister, the mainstream media has ceaselessly sought to besmirch
him and his family. No other democratic leader has been continuously vilified to
such an extent.
The past week was just another normal one in Israel—with new and sensational allegations, and suspicions of ever-more grave violations of the law by Netanyahu, being supposedly uncovered by the police and dramatically covered by a frenetic press.
since his unexpected, razor-thin 1996 victory over Shimon Peres—the
left-leaning liberal establishment candidate for the premiership—Netanyahu has
been hounded and harassed by his political rivals within Israel’s entrenched
civil-society elites, and subjected to a maelstrom of allegations that range
from the petty to the preposterous.
two decades, he has been assailed by the self-appointed bon-ton set, who saw him
as an impudent upstart usurper of the their divinely ordained right to govern.
Significantly, the recriminations against him rarely, if ever, related to the
manner in which he discharged the duties of the office to which he was elected.
their astonished disbelief morphed into visceral rage, a cavalcade of charges
was unleashed, admonishing him (and/or his spouse, Sara) for irregular use of
garden furniture, the employment of an electrician and the proceeds from the
sale of recycled bottles; payments to a moving contractor, an inflated ice-cream
bill (no kidding), the cost of his wife’s coiffure and meals ordered for the
official P.M. residence from restaurants; expenses involving the care of his
ailing 96-year-old father-in-law . . .
several of the investigations into these “grave transgressions” ended with a
recommendation by the police to indict. Equally significantly, no indictment
ever materialized, usually because of “difficulties with the evidence
Indeed, just how ludicrous and uncalled for the
relentless witch-hunt appeared to some outside pundits is vividly reflected in a
With the onset of the March 2015 elections,
most pundits confidently predicted the end of the Netanyahu era. Buoyed by
optimistic polls and bolstered by
by his strong showing and devoid of any alternative contender of adequate
stature, they apparently despaired of defeating him at the ballot box—and fell
back on other less democratic measures.
Thus, after huge media hype and well over a
year of intensive investigation that spanned several continents and
in exchange for these plentiful high-end gifts, all that Netanyahu is supposed
to have actually done is to help one of his generous friends, who has a long
record of service to the country, with his U.S. visa arrangements. How heinous
of him. How detrimental to the citizens of Israel and the principles of good
far as has been reported, everything else that Netanyahu attempted to achieve,
supposedly in return for this untoward largesse, came to naught—leaving us to
puzzle over how this was in anyway damaging to public welfare or how the
national interest was undermined by it.
The other accusation, of
ever came of the meeting. Quite the opposite. Netanyahu stanchly defended the
rival newspaper against proposed legislation, intended to close it down, while
its unrequited competitor continued to lambast him.
less perplexing—and perturbing—were the developments of the past few days.
In the wake of intensive investigations, a number of senior managers and major
shareholders of a large telecommunication corporation were arrested together
with the director-general of the Ministry of Communications and Netanyahu’s
former media adviser.
there appear to be two major charges. The one is that Netanyahu, as Minister of
Communications, acted to advance the commercial interests of said corporation
and its major shareholder. In return for this, Netanyahu and his family were
supposedly given favorable coverage by a media channel, Walla, owned by the
putative beneficiaries of Netanyahu’s purported efforts on their behalf.
The only real evidence of this seems to be a
other suspected transgression involves an approach, allegedly made by
Netanyahu’s former media advisor to a retired judge regarding her possible
appointment to the position of attorney-general—if she would act to drop
criminal probes against Sara Netanyahu.
neither the judge nor the current head of the Supreme Court, whom she informed
of the approach, considered it a matter of any serious substance and not one
entailing criminal intent. Indeed, neither of them felt the need to pursue the
matter and certainly not to report it to the police.
in itself, would appear to be the ultimate mitigating factor in this
case—demonstrating that no malfeasance was at hand.
it seems that Bibi-phobia is so intense it can generate some surprising
unintended consequences. For the reticence of the two judges appears to have
ignited the ire of those who normally consider the judiciary to be the
“holiest of holies” in Israeli society—and the ultimate weapon with which
to dispatch Netanyahu from power.
Thus, the usually virulent anti-Netanyahu—and
equally enthusiastic pro-judiciary—daily,
do not know whether or not there is some contorted, esoteric legalistic
interpretation of the law by which Netanyahu’s conduct could be deemed grave
criminal transgression. I have little doubt though, that even if such an
interpretation does exist, it would leave the overwhelming majority of impartial
Indeed, despite the massive media blitz on his
legitimacy and leadership, Likud seems to be gaining in strength—at least, in
as a layman, it’s difficult to avoid the distinct impression that the
unrelenting drive to bring an indictment—any indictment—against Netanyahu
has long exceeded the bounds of reasonable law enforcement. Thus, it would seem,
that where Netanyahu is concerned, the forces of law and order appear be to
trying to outlaw every give-and-take interaction in political life, thereby
extracting the very essence of political activity itself.
one might be excused for raising the suspicion that a desperate attempt is
underway to criminalize anything and anybody with any perceived congenial
association with Netanyahu, whether personal or professional.
is deeply disturbing. After all, by what seems to be criminalizing actions, even
those that are unperformed, by inferring nefarious intent to them is veering
perilously close to criminalizing thought.
none of this is intended to convey the impression that Netanyahu is
irreplaceable. After all, at some stage the Netanyahu-era will eventually come
to an end, and some successor, whether more capable or less so, will be found to
run the affairs of the nation.
What, however, is being contended is that, in the absence of some incontrovertible—and incontrovertibly grave—infraction, the composition of the government or any change therein should be decided by the polls, not by the police or a politicized press.