Undergoing police investigation on suspicion of illegal gift taking must be unpleasant for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But it may be good for Israel’s image in the Arab world, casting Israel as a state where no one is above the law, as opposed to Arab regimes and the Palestinian Authority.
The contrast was not lost on Dr. Sufian Abu Zaida, former PA minister of prisoner affairs, who published an opinion piece in the London-based Rai al-Youm website that voiced unabashed admiration for Israel as a “state of law” combined with indirect yet withering criticism of President Mahmoud Abbas’s increasingly despotic rule.
Abu Zaida, a supporter of Mohammed Dahlan, the former Gaza security chief who is the main rival to Abbas, wrote: “The investigation of the prime minister for corruption and bribe taking is the real expression of independence of the judiciary and separation of authorities. It’s the real expression of a genuine state of law where everyone is equal before the law and not a state of counterfeit law.
“It is of no use to Netanyahu that he is responsible for the Israeli police – he can’t threaten anyone to get them to overlook the suspicions or accusations he faces, he can’t evade the investigation by portraying it as a conspiracy against the nation,” Abu Zaida wrote. “He can delay it for a day or two or a week but he can’t avoid it forever or use his powers to cancel the investigation.
“Netanyahu can’t use the security apparatus like the Shin Bet or Mossad to threaten anyone from the police or judiciary under various pretexts. In the rule of law their mission is to protect the country, the law and the citizen.
Their mission is not to protect the president or the prime minister or any other official,” he wrote.
Abu Zaida went on to voice admiration for the fact that Israeli leaders have been forced to resign and to serve time in prison. He wrote that this could happen to Netanyahu also. “He must give convincing answers to the questions put to him. If they are not convincing, it will end in a charge sheet and a trial and his fate will be like that of his predecessor Olmert.”
Abu Zaida’s column citing the differences between Israel and the PA comes amid signs that Abbas is deploying the judiciary against political opponents and has veered towards one-man rule.
In November, Abbas mounted a purge of supporters of Dahlan from the ranks of his Fatah movement by excluding them from attending the Fatah conference that elected leadership bodies. Prior to that, Abbas cut off the salaries of Gaza PA employees who are supporters of Dahlan.
Last month, a PA constitutional court whose justices were handpicked by Abbas ruled that the president has the authority to rescind the parliamentary immunity of members of the Palestinian Legislative Council. Abbas proceeded to do this to five legislators critical of him, including Dahlan, paving the way for the public prosecutor to complete an investigation against them, reportedly for money laundering and illegal weapons trade.
On December 14, a Palestinian court issued a judgment in absentia against Dahlan on charges he embezzled funds and sentenced him to three years in jail and a $16 million dollar fine. Abbas has also sought to delegitimize Dahlan by hinting that he poisoned Palestinian Authority president Yasser Arafat in 2004.
Abu Zaida wrote: “In a state of law, the security, executive and judicial apparatuses are not used to serve the president or the prime minister or to be used as a tool or sword on the head of political opponents by fabricating accusations against them of corruption and if they are heavyweight former officials, accusing them of killing. In the state of law, livelihoods are not used as a sword against the necks of people.”
Not everyone was impressed by Abu Zaida’s argument. “Your admiration for the Zionist entity and your saying that it’s a state of law is like admiring a thief who gives some money to charity after plundering his victims,” wrote a talkback respondent, Wasifq. “Are you not ashamed of yourself?” Another respondent, Abu Abed Filastin, wrote: “The article is great but you should focus clearly and frankly on our Palestinian situation and that of the Arab world so it will not appear as if you are admiring the enemy state.”
Gaza political analyst Fayez Abu Shamaleh also commented admiringly on the police probe of Netanyahu, writing in a Facebook post, “No one is above the law in Israel. The gates of the prisons [were] locked behind the president of the state and the former prime minister Olmert.”
“Don’t ask me why Israel achieved a victory over all the Arab countries,” he added.