‘The prime minister is innocent” are five words that can change the course of history. The three Jerusalem District Court judges in Netanyahu’s trial told the prosecution last week that they did not prove a bribery crime and in essence the defense has no case to answer. That was nothing short of an earthquake.
The aftershock came this week, when the former chief of the Israel police admitted that their working assumption was that there would be no trial.
It is crystal clear the State Prosecutors didn’t think Netanyahu would want to go to trial and therefore were less concerned about the lack of any incriminating evidence against the innocent Prime Minister.
Words fail to describe the magnitude of this development and its possible implications, which extend far beyond the courtroom. It is difficult to quantify the damage done to Israel’s economy, security, social cohesion, political stability and foreign relations by the seven-year-long wild witch hunt but we should try to do so nonetheless, so that Israel can cut its losses, make sure that such a travesty can never happen again in our democracy, and surge forward.
Some are blinded by hatred against Netanyahu
There are those in the political, legal and media realms whose unabated hatred of Netanyahu, blind self-interests and twisted sense of self-righteousness, drove them to zealously pursue a seven-year saga with no concrete evidence. Zero.
Their dogged pursuit toppled Israel’s longest-serving Prime Minister after he brought four peace agreements and got Israel out of the COVID-19 crisis before any other country. It was an utterly anti-Democratic political coup attempt via judicial means that backfired once the voters stopped buying the prosecution’s false narrative.
Every day in court strengthened Netanyahu’s case until he received a renewed vote of confidence from the Israeli public last November.
After hearing all the prosecution’s witnesses in the bribery case and before even one defense witness has taken the stand, the judges advised the attorneys of the State Prosecutor that the crime of bribery cannot be proven and suggested pursuing a settlement. A British court would refer to this particular situation as “no case to answer” and dismiss the bribery charge immediately. In Israel, however, the prosecution can prolong the trial for years to come and will likely do just that, as its hubris and lack of professional integrity do not allow for acknowledging any honest mistakes, not to mention recklessness, negligence or outright improprieties. The case against Netanyahu is a dead horse, but they choose to continue beating it.
Is there still any sane Israeli citizen out there who doesn’t think legal reform is necessary – now more than ever?
IT IS worth noting that then-Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, himself reportedly stated that without the bribery offense, there would be no justification for an indictment. Unfortunately, unless there are consequences for malpractice by these black robed civil servants, they will continue to subject the country to prolonged legal battles, along the way callously holding Israel’s precious national cohesion and indispensable foreign relations hostage to their egos. Like the famed Captain Ahab, pursuing the great white whale of a guilty Netanyahu supersedes everything, no matter the cost.
Netanyahu’s case was anything but normal. Years of globetrotting inquiries, unauthorized opening of investigation against a sitting Prime Minister, illicit leaks from the investigation to nightly newscasts, illegal interrogations against witnesses in an effort to turn them into state witnesses, and illegal police use of spyware against hundreds of innocent citizens – these were just some of the tactics used to bring down the elected leader of Israel.
Disturbingly, this did not give many in the mainstream media pause to reassess, not to mention self-reflect or apologize. In fact, many reporters have only dug in their position vis-à-vis the trial, clutching on to new and outrageous theories about what happened, and even more ludicrous assertions about what will happen.
Dana Weiss of Channel 12 News, a former legal correspondent, provided an excellent example. She unflinching argued that although the court advised the prosecution that the bribery charge does not hold water, the testimony of the defense witnesses will provide incriminating evidence.
That’s right: the defense will do the job that the prosecutor failed to do. This is tantamount to a football coach telling his team at halftime that even though they are trailing 0-3, the rival team will score 4 own goals and lose the game.
Now is the time for honest and professional reporters to step in and step up. The prosecution and their unscrupulous shills in the media must be held accountable to prevent further injustices and protect innocent people and the nation from undue harm. It also makes patently clear the need for judicial reform like never before.
The prime minister’s acquittal will open new avenues for regional peace and prosperity, which were held hostage for a generation by Palestinian leaders and, inadvertently, for seven years by the legal system. We are now finally at a point where the stagnant issues that impeded progress can be addressed. Now is the time to unite and focus on critical matters, such as countering the threat posed by Iran and pursuing peace hand in hand with prosperity.
In the process, we must not lose sight of the lessons we have learned. We must work towards legal reform to ensure that the system operates with integrity and transparency, and that the mistakes of the past are not repeated.
The recent development in Netanyahu’s trial should unleash the potential for long-overdue positive change. The stymied peace process with neighbors near and far can now be realized, securing a peaceful and prosperous future for Israel and the region.
The writer is a former head of the International Counter Terrorism Institute’s office in Washington and senior analyst at Acumen Risk Ltd., a risk management firm.