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Israel: Rule Of Law Fatally Undermined – OpEd

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A man who has been indicted on three counts of corruption in one of the biggest scandals in Israel’s history will soon be reanointed as prime minister. Just think about that sentence for a moment before reading on.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has cut a deal with his political rival, Benny Gantz, which will allow him to remain as prime minister for the next 18 months. Under the terms of the “unity deal” — or, as I call it, “the real steal of the century” — Gantz will take over as prime minister after those 18 months. But that’s only if the government can survive that long.

Netanyahu was charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust on Nov. 21, 2019, as part of a larger justice department probe into widespread corruption in the country that has gone on for more than two years. In any other democracy, he would have been thrown out of office by voters. Instead, Netanyahu has not only managed to edge out his strongest rival, Gantz, but he also prevented the latter from forming his own ruling coalition following March’s third election in the space of a year.

Even though he is the first sitting Israeli PM to be indicted on corruption charges, Netanyahu has managed to hold on to power longer than any other Israeli leader. How? Because Israel is a nation based not on the rule of law, but rather on the rule of corruption, including civil and human rights abuses, apartheid and racism, violence against civilians based on their religion, and impunity against the fundamental principles of lawful human conduct. Why would anyone ever think that a nation that embraces those immoral, scandalous and deplorable traits would not want an indicted politician to be its leader?

Netanyahu didn’t just walk into office. He received a strong vote, although there was serious concern among his allies that he didn’t have the clout to put together a coalition made up of at least 61 Knesset members to rule the country and hold on to power.

Gantz had a chance to change the ugly character of Israeli society. His Blue and White alliance had the opportunity, following the most recent election, to take control of Israel’s government. Netanyahu and his partners could only muster 58 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, three short of what he needed. Gantz had the chance to control the remaining 62 seats — but only if he included the Arab Joint List, led by two Palestinians with long histories of representing Israel’s minority Arab population, Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi.

The Joint List controls 15 seats in the Knesset thanks to a voter drive in the Arab community, which, in the future, could lead to even more seats if they would only get their act together and apply modern-day political and media strategies. Odeh and Tibi even offered to give Gantz their support without demanding a role in controlling the government that they would have helped to birth. But Israeli society still isn’t ready, after 70 years of race-like religious supremacy, to give non-Jews real equality.

The country claims to be a democracy but it is not. It has implemented more than 60 laws that discriminate against citizens based on their religion. Many are creative forms of racism, coated in a guilt-driven public relations spin that has vilified any form of criticism of Israeli policies, including war crimes, as “a form of anti-Semitism.”

When Netanyahu is sworn into office yet again, he will do so at the expense of true democracy. He will do so at the expense of human and civil rights. And he will do so at the expense of the rule of law. As prime minister, Netanyahu will wield the power to undermine his own prosecution.

In declaring the astonishing corruption indictments against Netanyahu last year, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit declared: “No one is above the law.” But, clearly, in Israel, far too many people are below the law, unworthy of its protection and unworthy of a justice that should be above hypocrisy.

Ironically, it was Netanyahu’s indictment that gave Gantz the foundation from which he appeared to be able to forge a new path for Israel. Gantz frequently said that the criminal indictments should disqualify Netanyahu from serving. Yet, in Israel’s strange and corrupt form of democracy, Mandelblit forgot to mention that, while no one is above the law, a lot of unprincipled and immoral behavior is.

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

*Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian-American former journalist and political columnist. Email him at [email protected]

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