Max Singer has a distinguished record as founder and participant in the work of the Hudson Foundation, and has commented wisely on a number of occasions since coming to Israel many years ago. 

 
At one time we had neighboring apartments, and shared discussions of what interested us both.

I've visited the grave of his son in the military cemetery on Mt Herzl, and pondered the lost future of a young man who had impressed me as someone of promise.

As someone I respect as colleague and friend, I also have to disagree in part--but an important part--with the most recent item of Max's that I've seen.


It's titled "Democracy Depends on its Citizens," and a highlighted summary pretty much explains the message.


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" If Benjamin Netanyahu is forced to step down from his position as prime minister without sufficient evidence proving him to be guilty of criminal activity, the country will lose an experienced and capable leader at a time of growing danger. The elites who are so eager to push him out should consider whether their wish to install an individual more to their tastes is worth the possible cost to Israel’s security."


Max writes that Netanyahu is both a skilled policymaker and a flawed individual.

". . .we have a prime minister who is widely recognized as one of the most eloquent and capable statesmen in the world today . . .  On the other hand, a great many Israelis scorn and disapprove of the prime minister. Even many of his admirers see him as a man of poor character – small-minded, selfish, miserly, and disloyal, unable to create and maintain close relationships with strong people and political allies . . . Perhaps most of all, Bibi’s hedonistic lifestyle – apart from his strong work ethic — offends many Israelis who contrast it with that of Begin, Rabin, and other Israeli political leaders of the past."
 
In my view, Max goes too far in the direction of downplaying the nature of the allegations against Netanyahu, and the quality of the evidence that has been made available to the public. He comes too close to accepting the claims of Netanyahu and his still loyal allies that it's largely a product of biased police and media, both with a strong leftist tilt, and making mountains out of molehills.

In my own blog entries, I've stood aside from the leftist crowd, some of whose outspoken figures are my academic colleagues. I've praised Netanyahu as a policymaker, with a skill and craftiness to serve a constituency with rightist (even extremist) rhetoric, while acting moderately on important occasions to restrain the real extremists on matters of settlement and military operations.

However, I've also written that I find the evidence available sufficiently damning with respect to the morality of Netanyahu, his wife and his older son to consider him no longer fit to serve as Prime Minister. 


With Max Singer, I am concerned with the quality of democracy. More than Max, I see the indications of Netanyahu's corruption outweighing his skills as policymaker. His behavior sets an intolerable standard for what's acceptable in a decent society.


Netanyahu appears not only guilty of personal corruption, but of appointing and working with individuals who have been corrupt in profiting from their positions.


Indications of what appears shameful about the behavior of Bibi, Sara, and Yair have come to me not only via the media, but--thanks to the intimacy of this small country--from individuals I trust who have had personal contacts.


One of the problems I see in Max Singer's article is his demand that we wait for judicial proof of Netanyahu's guilt.


To be sure, the law does not require a Prime Minister to step down only upon presentation of an indictment for a criminal offense.


However, we've seen enough for politics to do its work. 


The record of government auditors, police, prosecutors, judges, and the processes of appeal in the case of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert indicates that Max, myself, and many other Israelis are unlikely to live long enough to see the end of Bibi's encounter with Israel's institutions.


We've seen indication that Bibi's political support is weakening. The brouhaha surrounding his zig zag on illegal African migrants, and the clumsy struggle with Knesset Chair Yuli Edelstein over an appearance on the Independence Day celebration provide additional indications that it's time for Bibi to retire. Critics are chiding as yet another Bibi farce the invitation to the Honduran President to participate in Independence Day festivities. It was explained as part of the effort to make Bibi's appearance acceptable, given his roles as both Foreign Minister as well as Prime Minister, and the appropriateness of the Foreign Minister accompanying a dignitary from overseas.. 


But why the President of Honduras? That country is known for having one of the world highest murder rates, as well as a reputation for political corruption, with significant problems in the election of the President who had been invited to Israel. Those thinking that participants in Israel's 70th Anniversary should have some connection with the country's history are hard pressed to explain the choice of Honduras.


Now it seems that Yuri Edelstein and Bibi Netanyahu had compromised their squabble, allowing the Prime Minister an appearance, but less than a speech at the Anniversary celebration. Perhaps due to the nastiness of Israeli commentators, the President of Honduras has cancelled his journey. Minister of Culture and Sport Meri Regev, who arranged his visit as a way to get Bibi onto the Independence Day podium, is accusing leftist parties of insulting a friend.


This is the week for Israel's commemoration of the Holocaust. It's a time for Israel to both concern itself with defense, and to do something about morality at the peak of its government. 
 
Comments welcome



-- 
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem


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