As we speak, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu is in the process of deciding whether to accept a plea agreement from the prosecution that would require him to plead guilty to some of the charges against him and leave politics.
He is making this decision together with his attorneys and his family, and it is his absolute right to do what he sees fit for his future. As well, he is undoubtedly considering the good of the country and the impact his decision will have on internal Israeli politics.
But there should be more to it. Netanyahu should also take into account the bigger picture and the wider world. With all due respect to the narrow parliamentary and political issues he must deal with as Israel’s opposition leader in the Knesset, there are bigger fish for him to fry.
Now, the world is in desperate need of the guidance of an elder statesman. Freed of his responsibilities as Likud leader and Knesset member, Netanyahu can take that role. Netanyahu could go to the Iran-deal talks in Vienna and speak to relevant parties, without the burdens and complications of officially representing Israel. He can go to America whenever he wants, without getting permission to miss votes and the Knesset ethics committee asking who funded his trip.
When there are elections between a pro-Israel candidate and an anti-Israel candidate anywhere around the world, he could provide a superstar endorsement that would make a difference. In particular, the American Jewish community requires a mentor at this time of divisiveness, and concerns about the coronavirus, antisemitism, security and alienation from Israel. Netanyahu can provide his prominent voice, talents, experience and intelligence.
As one of the world’s most eloquent statesmen and most successful politicians in history, he would earn a pretty penny as a speaker, consultant and adviser to corporations, organizations and even countries. Isn’t that better than wasting millions on lawyers for a trial that could take years?
As a veteran lawyer, I know anything can happen in litigation. The innocent can be proven guilty for all sorts of reasons and technicalities. A long trial with hundreds of witnesses is a waste of time for someone of Netanyahu’s stature. Whatever the charges are against Netanyahu, they pale in light of greater issues Israel and the world are facing.
Members of the current government have said they want Netanyahu to reject the plea deal, because the opposition is stronger without him. The Likud has not been able to form a government, because Netanyahu has too many enemies. As well, it is also because they obviously fear losing the glue that keeps the government together.
The moment he leaves the scene, the Right can come back to power immediately and a government that can only unite in its dislike for Netanyahu can be toppled. Israelis can get the kind of government that an overwhelming majority of them want.
The prosecution, which knows it can also lose in court, needs to be more flexible in reaching a deal. The standard seven years a politician is distanced after conviction for a serious crime in Israel should not be necessary for what Netanyahu allegedly did. Two or three years should be enough to achieve their goal of setting an example.
But who knows? Even if it does end up being seven years, maybe Netanyahu could return to power at age 80 and lead Israel for another decade. His father, Prof. Benzion Netanyahu, continued working into his late 90s and died at the age of 102.
For all those reasons, Netanyahu should sign the deal.
The writer is co-president of the Religious Zionists of America, chairman of the Center for Righteousness and Integrity, and a committee member of the Jewish Agency. He was appointed by former US president Donald Trump as a member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. The views expressed are his own. [email protected]