It would be a mistake to assume that the present legal troubles in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finds himself are similar to the way President Trump was treated in the United States in the impeachment trial.
Answering the question of whether or not Trump was innocent or guilty of abuse of power and obstruction of congress is not the purpose of this blog. I have heard strong arguments on both sides and I am not a lawyer. What cannot be denied is that the charges were politically motivated.
When both votes are along party lines, save one lone republican who has long opposed President Trump, it is clear that this was political more than legal.
In the case of Benjamin Netanyahu, we do not have a legislative branch that is set up to check on the executive branch. Our executive branch, or governing cabinet, comes from our legislative branch or Knesset (Parliament). Since the Prime Minister is the head of the ruling coalition, it is near impossible that there would be more than 60 votes (50% plus) to remove him. But if there were, there would not need to be a crime, just a vote of “no confidence”.
There is no mechanism in Israeli politics that would look like what we saw over the past two months in the U.S. If an Israeli Prime Minister commits a crime, it is investigated by the police, not Nancy Pelosi-berg.
The important difference here is that these indictments against Netanyahu are not coming from his political enemies – the Israeli equivalents to Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff, but by the police. When he stands trail beginning on March 17th, it will not be before Beni Gantz and Yair Lapid (his political foes) but in a court of law.
To be clear, that is where the US system is flawed. There is no such thing as a fair hearing when those who bring the charges against someone are also your judge and jury—people who have several conflicts of interest—such as, they hate you and have sworn to remove you. While I have always been a fan of the three-branch system in the US government, this is a clear flaw.
If you bring articles of impeachment against a president, then a special court should be formed with a jury of impartial legal experts. The way it was conducted was a sham. Even if the President was guilty, no sensible American could have confidence in the process. Democrats declared him guilty and republicans said it was not an offense worthy of impeachment.
[Ironic tidbit: This whole issue arose from concern from the democrats that Trump was seeking to harm Biden’s chances of being the nominee by seeking to get Ukraine to investigate his son. Trump clearly let this issue go and released the aid money. That would have been the end of it, but the dems making this an impeachment issue, put the spotlight on, dare I say it, quid pro Joe, and he has tumbled in the polls. Before impeachment, he was leading by 100% over his closest competitor. Meanwhile, Trump has never been more popular.]
Back to Bibi
Bibi was not charged by a jealous political opposition, but by the attorney general he appointed. It would be like William Barr charging Trump. One couldn’t say that Barr was be being politically motivated to get Trump since he was appointed by him. Remember Eric Holder said he was Obama’s wingman. Imagine Holder charging Obama. It is not exactly like the US. The AG cannot be removed at the whim of the Prime Minister.
Regarding the indictments:
“The Basic Law (Basic Law is the closest thing we have to a constitution) makes it clear that a sitting prime minister can be indicted. According to article 17 of the Basic Law, the attorney general must approve the initiation of a criminal investigation against a sitting prime minister. If the investigation produces grounds for an indictment, the attorney general may indict the prime minister.” source
Some have claimed that the police trumped up the charges, fueled by a left-wing media. Now it is true that the media hate Bibi, but they have no sway over a skilled Netanyahu-appointed prosecutor in AG Avichai Mandleblit; and certainly not over the judicial system that will conduct his trial.
The Charges Against Bibi
Case 4000—Bribery, fraud, breach of Trust: When Bibi was Communications Minister, he changed the rules that benefited tycoon businessman Shaul Elovich some $500,000,000. There are three key witnesses.
Case 2000—Attempted Bribery: Arrangement with publisher of Israel’s largest newspaper that would give Bibi favorable coverage in exchange for limiting the distribution of a competing right-wing newspaper. There are two key witnesses and a recording.
Case 1000—Breach of Trust: Bibi took gifts worth $200,000 in exchange for favors to a Hollywood mogul.
I am a rightwing Israeli, along with most of the country. In Israel that means that you favor a strong military and security apparatus and nothing more. It has nothing to do with views on homosexuality, abortion or same sex unions. I could hardly be described as an enemy of Bibi. But the facts are clear: the indictments are serious and seemed to be backed by facts. But, the good news is that Beny Gantz will not be leading the prosecution against him, rather, it will take place in a court of law and that is why I have a much higher level of confidence in our system here in Israel, than I do in the partisan sham that took place in the US.
One thing is for sure: If the democrats had control of 2/3 of the Senate, Trump would have been convicted and removed from office whether or not he was innocent of guilty.
US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Ben Gurion Airport (Coby Gideon / GPO)