A Nixon moment

In his very undramatic TV declaration, Netanyahu was transparently using the trappings of the prime minister’s office to forward his personal interests.

By
January 8, 2019 21:32
3 minute read.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a weekly cabinet meeting, December 23rd, 2018

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a weekly cabinet meeting, December 23rd, 2018. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

 
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Monday’s late-afternoon announcement from his aides that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be making a dramatic statement to the nation at 8 p.m. that evening had the online and media world buzzing.

Would Netanyahu be revealing a major political alliance between Likud and another party or another election-related disclosure? Or would it be another security-related matter like when Netanyahu, with great flourish, revealed the secret Iranian nuclear documents, or more recently, the existence of the Hezbollah tunnels in the North and the campaign to destroy them? Or, most likely, would it be a significant development in the legal battles that the prime minister is embroiled in, as reports have intensified that Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit would be announcing his decision about whether to indict Netanyahu before the April 9th election?

The answer proved to be none of the above. Netanyahu, in an Internet connection hookup from the Prime Minister’s Residence with drops of water dripping from a leak in the ceiling in front of him, used prime TV exposure to appeal to voters’ sympathies by claiming he is not being treated fairly in the investigations.

Although he clarified that he was not trying to undermine the rule of law, he said that the judicial branch is not immune to criticism – and proceeded to criticize it.

Saying that a live confrontation with the state’s witnesses in the cases against him would help reveal the truth in his eyes – and that his requests for such a meeting had been denied twice – Netanyahu played the victim’s role to the hilt.

“What do they have to be afraid of? What are they hiding? I am not afraid; I do not have anything to hide. Therefore, tonight, I repeat my demand for a confrontation with state’s witnesses… I am certain that I am right,” he stated.

As The Jerusalem Post’s Yonah Jeremy Bob pointed out in Tuesday’s paper, police usually carry out a confrontation if they feel that it’s necessary to help prove their case, or if they are lacking documents and it is just a situation of he-said/she-said.


When they decide not to arrange a confrontation, it usually means that they think they can prove their case without it. The witnesses and the accused will have plenty of opportunity to face each other in court during the trial.

For Netanyahu to commandeer the evening’s news reports (after already dominating the previous three hours with speculation about what he was going to say) and then squander that attention by delving into a highly technical legal aspect of a criminal investigation, seems like the desperate act of someone threatened by the likelihood of a pre-election indictment.

“In a normal country, the prime minister would not behave in such a way. Instead of caring about the security of residents of the South, about the cost of living, or the deteriorating health system, Netanyahu is busy saving himself from investigations,” Labor chairman Avi Gabbay said in response.

Netanyahu’s statements portray a prime minister who is more intent on his survival and concerned about his own welfare than he is about running the country. Like Richard Nixon in the last months of his presidency in 1974, Netanyahu is grasping at straws – trying to connect the dots of a conspiracy against him and besmirch the judicial and law enforcement bodies that form the foundations of any strong democracy.

In his very undramatic TV declaration, Netanyahu was transparently using the trappings of the prime minister’s office to forward his personal interests. The next time his staff declares that he is going to make a dramatic announcement, much of the country, as well as TV news broadcasts, will think twice about taking time out of their busy lives to pay attention.

Netanyahu should let the judicial process take its course. Holding the country hostage to “dramatic announcements” that turn out to be nothing more than political statements is a misuse of the premiership and a violation of the public’s trust.

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