Opinion: The prime minister’s trial will be conducted in two parallel universes – one inside the courtroom where the rule of law prevails and another orchestrated by the defendant; but he must remember that criminal proceedings are decided by judges and not in the court of public opinion
Shelly Yachimovich- https://www.ynetnews.com
If you discount the disgraceful events of Sunday outside the courtroom at Jerusalem District Court, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stood trial for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, it was not entirely a bad day.
After all, Sunday’s events proved that we do live in a law-abiding country, where we can find a modicum of equality before the law for the rich as much as for the poor, the weak as much as the strong.
And the strongest man in Israel – who left no stone unturned in his efforts to avoid the very day on which he had to assume the position of the defendant in a court of law, tearing the country apart with his polarizing rhetoric and mud-slinging, for his personal benefit – has been made to face his judges.
Granted, he did so kicking and screaming and threatening all manner of revenge, but ultimately – and somewhat unbelievably – he found himself on the hard wooden bench of the criminally accused.
It was a solemn day, but not a sad one as some have suggested, although there was little to be joyful about.
Before entering the courtroom, where Netanyahu finally sat humbly and in silence, he made one more assault on the proceedings before him.
The police and prosecutors had conspired to “tailor” a case against him he said, and the evidence was “contaminated” and exaggerated.
The talking points had been laid out clearly earlier in the day: Netanyahu is a victim persecuted by evil powers.
He assumed the role of Alfred Dreyfus, the Jewish artillery captain in the French army who was wrongly accused and convicted of treason by an anti-Semitic regime – portrayed in this new narrative by the judicial system.
But he did not stop there. It was not him alone that was on trial, he said. It was the entire right-wing and its voters.
Netanyahu went so far as to evoke a defining moment in Israeli and Jewish history, that of the trial of Holocaust architect Adolf Eichmann.
When the Nazi mastermind of the extermination of Europe’s Jewish community was dragged to Jerusalem, his prosecutor Gideon Hauser told the court: “When I stand here before you, I am not standing alone. With me are six million accusers.”
Who pray tell is Eichmann in Netanyahu’s analogy?
In his quest to control the message, the prime minister arrived flanked by ministers and members of Knesset from his long-ruling Likud party, and their face masks only added to the symbolism of the moment.
Are we to expect two parallel universes throughout these criminal proceedings: A reality inside the courtroom that operates according to the law and a reality outside it orchestrated by Netanyahu.
Over the years we have grown used to Likud members fading into the background and keeping their heads down as they refuse to confront their leader. But seeing the Blue & White party members attempt to do the same is disheartening.
The extent of their betrayal of their voters still left some faint hope that they would stand up against corruption – as they had pledged to do. They insisted on controlling the Justice Ministry to prevent Netanyahu from decimating the judicial system. But after their milquetoast reaction to the prime minister’s vicious attack, that hope has faded.
Only after social media exploded in protest did Netanyahu’s political partner Benny Gantz put out a statement that in no way matched the aggression of Netanyahu’s words.
Does Gantz think he and his party would be able to stay under the radar or plead the Fifth Amendment for the duration of their term? Not likely.
Netanyahu is beloved by the Israeli right; his appeal matches only that of their revered leader Menachem Begin, who first brought them to power in 1977.
And Likud voters are within their legal right to demonstrate their support for Netanyahu for that is how democracy works.
But thankfully criminal cases are not popularity contests, and legal proceedings must be decided in the courthouse and not by the court of public opinion.