Thursday, October 24, 2019

Caroline Glick, Benjamin Netanyahu--and Israel's survival as a democracy -- with UPDATE

(Last update: October 25, 2019)

Most of Israel's media has been following three long-running criminal investigations (here) against Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Most of this media coverage appears to focus on 4 sets of details: (1) the individual cases against Netanyahu for bribery, corruption and 'breach of trust'; (2) how Natanyahu must be indicted in order to protect Israel's democracy (the media has apparently assumed Netanyahu to be guilty before indictment or trial); (3) how Netanyahu has an absolute obligation to step down from office before being indicted, even though the law doesn't require this; and (4), since Netanyahu has not yet stepped down, he most certainly should do so once he is indicted, even though the law doesn't require that, either.

Otherwise, most media news outlets claim, Israel's democracy will be threatened. Therefore, for our democracy's sake, Netanyahu should step down immediately--if not sooner.

Caroline Glick has just published an essay that raises serious questions not only about the three cases against Netanyahu, but also about "Israel's democracy" (here). If you want to see the 'case' against Netanyahu in an entirely new light--one not yet explored here in Israel--you 'd be wise to read her essay (see below).

Now, late October, 2019, the three criminal cases against Netanyahu have advanced to the stage where Israel's Attorney General (Avichai Mandelblit) is studying the results of a four-day pre-indictment hearing for Netanyahu that ended some two weeks ago. Mandelblit will decide sometime over the next seven weeks if Netanyahu should go to trial--or be exonerated (here).

Some in Israel claim that these three cases against Netanyahu, which have harassed Netanyahu for more than three years, are linked (here). Some argue that these charges are the reason Netanyahu didn't win the April, 2019 national elections. The weight of all the 'corruption' stories simply hung too heavily around his neck. These cases are also the reason, for some, that  Netanyahu couldn't win enough votes in the follow-up September 2019 elections to retain his hold on the PM office. 

Now, Caroline Glick has written a bombshell of an essay about Mandelblit's responsibility to Israel in this case. Her point of view is brand new to Israeli readers. 

Mandelblit has less than eight weeks to decide to indict Netanyahu--or cancel more than three years' worth of police investigations. Glick claims that what's at stake here for Mandelblit is nothing less than Israel's reputation as a Western democracy. She suggests that, if Mandelblit makes the wrong decision (which is to indict Netanyahu), Israel can lose its reputation as a 'Western democracy'. Her title is, "Netanyahu, the media and the fate of Israeli democracy". It's available here.

Her  thesis is simple. Because, she claims, these three cases involve three individuals seeking special treatment in exchange for what we can call some kind of positive news coverage for Netanyahu, Mandelblit has to be careful how he evaluates his facts. Why? Because, Glick argues, Western democracies have already seen such cases; and in each such instance--even when there is evidence of a quid pro quo--a democracy simply doesn't criminalize such news-media/politician discussions. Criminalizing such discussions would have a chilling effect on all journalist-politician relations,she argues; and these media/politician interactions represent a very special kind of relationship that's too precious to a democracy to chill through a criminalizing label.

Read her essay. It's startling. 

Her essay presents two interesting issues. The first issue is, are each of these three cases against Netanyahu really about gifting to Netanyahu positive news coverage in exchange for special treatment? In perhaps two of these cases, such an offer does appear indeed to be 'on the table'--if news reports are accurate. But the question is, did Netanyahu accept the offer? That's not entirely clear. Then, in a third case, the offer itself isn't clear.

In the end, none of this could matter because of a second issue--a remark cited by Glick: one of the prosecutors at the pre-indictment hearing is reported to have claimed that something about this 'danger' of criminalizing any journalist-politician relationship is, 'a capitalist position' (ibid). 

This single comment could be innocent--and therefore unimportant. But it could also be something else: an anti-capitalist, ideological, political bias. Does such a bias belong in a courtroom? Is such a political reference ever relevant in a courtroom?

In Israel, the one answer to such questions is, too often, yes. That is, such language is too often very relevant in Israel's courtrooms. Too often, such language is an ideological bias that prejudices Israel's most important courts--to the Left. 

Such an existing political bias--and such a biased political comment from a presumed-to-be-objective prosecutor--could suggest that these three cases aren't about criminal behavior at all. This bias suggests that these cases could actually be about how social justice warriors inside Israel's Attorney General's office now travel down the road to damning democracy: in the name of 'protecting democracy', perhaps they'll find Netanyahu guilty of a kind of corruption no other Western democracy dares to embrace. These 'warriors' can thereby 'chill' Israel's political climate so as to take 'democracy' out of Israel.

Such a biased political remark during a legal proceeding certainly suggests a social-justice bias--a bias that leans Left, to Socialism. It suggests a bias that rejects the freedom-of-speech sensibilities that Western democracies so cherish. 

Social justice Socialism never seems to look down the road to think about the unintended consequences of its actions. Just look at social justice warriors in the USA calling for police to be disarmed, without thinking about the consequence of such a demand. 

In America, it is this rise of social-justice Socialism that threatens to undercut the rule of law where, for example, it is a Socialistic 'anti-capitalist' bias that threatens to get a sitting President impeached through secret hearings. There have been just three impeachments in US history, and none--until now--has ever used closed-door hearings to plot out an impeachment case against a sitting President. 

More and more, social justice-Socialism law looks like closed, hidden Soviet-style authoritarian law than open, transparent Western law. By definition, social justice Socialism isn't 'capitalistic'. It's anti-capitalist. 

It's also anti-democracy. Is this Netanyahu's problem? Is his  behavior being judged not through the lens of a democracy, but through a Socialist, anti-democracy lens?

If so, he'll go to jail. But if Netanyahu is indeed to be judged through such an anti-democratic lens, upon what law what this change established in Israel? 

Calling a sensitivity to freedom of speech issues involving journalists and politicians simply 'a capitalistic position' is disturbing, to say the least. Israel's stature as a first-rate world democracy could be seriously undercut if Israel's chief law-enforcement officer listens to such talk and ignores the most basic of Western democratic ideas about free speech in order to criminalize what no leading modern democracy has yet dared to criminalize.

Will Mandelblit go down this road? More important, is this the anti-democracy road Israelis want?

If Glick is correct, Israel's democracy could be at stake here. Read her argument. 

What happens to Netanyahu--and to Israel--with these criminal cases may all depend on how Israel's Attorney General's office defines "capitalist". If their definition is anti- capitalist and anti-democracy, Netanyahu doesn't stand a chance. 

UPDATE: a new story in today's (October 25, 2019) timesofisrael (here) suggests that 'senior prosecutors' in Israel's Attorney General's office are reported to be unmoved by anything Netanyahu's lawyers said during the October 2-8, 2019 pre-indictment hearings. They seem intent to keep intact all of the original charges. Such a report is disturbing. It tends to confirm the analysis above. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

The Fast of Gedaliah and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

(Please  note: there are conflicting dates given for the story I am about to tell. I have chosen one time-line. Others use different dates)

(Last update: October 4, 2019)

The Jewish Fast of Gedaliah always falls on the third day of the Jewish month, Tishrei. In the Jewish calendar, the 3rd of Tishrei is the day after Jews around the world celebrate the two-day Holiday called, Rosh Hashannah, the Jewish New Year. This year, 5780 (2019 on the secular calendar), this Fast occurs today, Wednesday, October 2nd.

Today's title suggests a connection between this day of public fasting and Israel's current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. If you wish to see this connection, consider first what this Jewish Fast day commemorates. Then, consider the story of Mr Netanyahu. 

The name, Gedaliah, belongs to a man we know today as, Gedaliah ben Achikam ben Shafan. This Gedaliah (the son of Ahikam, the grandson son of Shafan) lived in Israel more than 2,400 years ago (here). His story is referred to twice in our Tanach, once in the Book of Yirmiyahu (chapters 40-41) and then, again, more briefly, in Malachiim 2 (Book of Kings 2, chapter 25) (ibid). You can look up those chapters for details of his story.

Not long after the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Jewish Temple--and most of the Jewish settlement enterprise in Israel [in 586 BCE (here)]--he decided to allow a remnant of Jews to remain in Israel. He appointed the Jewish Gedaliah as governor over this remnant (here).

Gedailah ruled over Israel at a time when Babylonia was the most powerful nation in the world. Gedaliah is said to have believed that maintaining a strong and peaceful relationship with this all-powerful nation would be good for Israel. That is, he appears to have believed that staying on Babylonia's 'good side' would mean that Israel would thrive (ibid). 

Indeed, following a policy of 'staying in line with' Babylonia, Israel's economy improved under Gedaliah's rule (ibid). By arranging a 'foreign policy' that favored Babylonia, Gedaliah was able to use his domestic leadership skills to strengthen Israel's ability to stand alone economically.  Through this combination of a shrewd foreign policy with a skilled domestic policy, Gedaliah created a success formula for Israel's existence. 

Netanyahu is no different than Gedaliah. Like Gedaliah, Netanyahu has a foreign policy that works closely with the interests of the modern world's most powerful nation, the US. Like Gedaliah--or, perhaps more successfully than Gedaliah--Netanyahu has combined a shrewd foreign policy with excellent domestic leadership skills to guide Israel to historic economic gains. 

Despite these achievements, both Gedaliah and Netanyahu are plagued by enemies. In Gedaliah's case, some Jews were jealous of him--and hated both his leadership and his policies (ibid). Disaffected Jews plotted against him. They wanted him gone. Gedaliah was warned to tread carefully with these plotters, but he didn't listen to that advice. 

On a Rosh Hashannah, he invited his main opponent to join him for the Holiday meal. At that meal, that opponent--along with men he had brought with him to the meal--rose up and murdered Gedaliah (here). 

This murder not only ended Gedaliah's life. It also ended the Jewish settlement enterprise in Israel (ibid). Gedaliah's leadership was such that his murder represented a devastating blow to Israel's well-being. Without him leading, Jews abandoned Israel. Israel withered into weakness and decline. 

We mourn today that loss. We fast, both for his death and the treachery which preceded it.

This, in essence, is the story of Gedaliah's Fast. It's short. It's ugly. Its consequences were disastrous for the Jewish remnant in Israel struggling to remain in Israel.

Today, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces what some feel is a similar treachery. What is at stake today isn't Netanyahu's life. No one seriously fears for his physical survival. But what some do fear today is for Netanyahu's political career. Netanyahu's enemies have, it seems, a lust to destroy him; and some in Israel fear the international and domestic consequences Israel will face should he be toppled.

Netanyahu's and Gedaliah's enemies share a starling similarity. Both sets of enemies hated their national leader. Neither wanted the leader they hated to remain in office. Both sets of enemies chose to destroy that hated leader--one through murder, the other by destroying the leader's reputation.  

Today's enemies of the state leader are frustrated. They hate Netanyahu. But they've only been able to keep him out of the Prime Minister's office  just once, some 20 years ago. Since his return to office in 2009, he's become Israel's longest-serving Prime Minister, ever. His enemies hate that he's done that despite their efforts to unseat him. His successes make them look like fools. They hate that, too.

While we don't know much about how and when Gedaliah's enemies plotted, and with whom, we know a lot about Netanyahu's enemies. Beginning perhaps in 2015, these enemies have been trying to remove Netanyahu from office outside the ballot box. Until now, Netanyahu's enemies certainly haven't beaten him at the ballot box. That has seemed pretty much impossible. So, beginning perhaps 4 years ago--some will say this all began much earlier-- Netanyahu's enemies hit upon a new tactic. They decided to destroy him with accusations of corruption. 

In Gedaliah's days, those who plotted against him sought to murder him. Today's plotters against Netanyahu seek only to 'murder' Netanyahu's political career. 

After close to four years of attacks, the accusations against Netanyahu have begun to talk hold in the nation's psyche. More and more voters have come to believe that, where's there's so much 'smoke' (accusations that are repeated some daily), there must indeed be fire (with all these accusations, the man must be guilty, right?). 

Some voters, so convinced, express a visceral hate for the man. They want to see him destroyed; or, if  not destroyed, then in jail (which, of course, amounts to the same thing). Now, with Israel's criminal justice system on the verge of indicting Netanyahu for the accused corruptions he is supposed to have committed, his enemies appear ready to celebrate finally getting rid of him. 

Gedaliah and Netanyahu. Two leaders felled--or brought to  the "felling" post (court)--by plotters and haters. No small irony, this--on the Fast of Gedaliah, no less.

Gedaliah long ago lost his life because of treachery. Will Netanyahu lose his political life now because of an equally hate-filled treachery? The Jews of Israel suffered when Gedaliah lost his life. Will Jews in Israel now suffer again if--as many expect--Netanyahu's political life is destroyed? 

Can Netanyahu save his career and his reputation? Will indictment bring out the howling wolves of 'he must resign now'?

Will a trial save him--or be the final nail in his political coffin?

Stay tuned. This ugly tale of modern Jewish treachery has just begun.  

How is this going to end? G-d knows.

(Some of us are fasting today. Have an easy fast)