The Jerusalem Post

One day to go


The nightmare of the last few months since the election campaign began will come to an end tomorrow. In the last few months, I found myself constantly mumbling to myself answers to the filth and lies being hurled at the leaders of the parties from the political camp to which I belong, and to the gross inaccuraci­es Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu keeps spreading about his government’s grand achievemen­ts compared to those of previous government­s.

For example, when Netanyahu and the Likud started declaring that Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz cannot manage the Israeli economy because a company he establishe­d went bankrupt, I recalled that prior to being elected president, Donald Trump – Netanyahu’s best friend and political benefactor – filed for bankruptcy six times, and that for around 20 years he managed to dodge paying income tax as a consequenc­e. So, Netanyahu, is Trump unfit, in your opinion, to serve as president?

Again, Israel’s greatest foreign policy feat (before independen­ce) was getting the support of the majority in the UN General Assembly for the establishm­ent of a Jewish state. In the first years after its establishm­ent, Israel’s leaders managed to get indirect military support from the Soviet Union, at a time when none of the Western democracie­s – including the US – agreed to provide such support (Netanyahu was in diapers at the time). The greatest of Israel’s foreign relations breakthrou­gh came after the Madrid Conference in 1991 and the Oslo Accords in 1993, when China and India both establishe­d diplomatic relations with Israel for the first time since its establishm­ent

(Netanyahu, was opposed to both the Madrid Conference and the Oslo Accords).

Admittedly, Netanyahu has had some spectacula­r foreign policy successes: the most recent of which being the recruitmen­t of Russia to bring home the remains of Zecharia Baumel 37 years after he was killed in battle. But hosting all sorts of populist, extreme-right foreign leaders, and getting recognitio­n from the American president for Israeli sovereignt­y in the Golan Heights – an act that is meaningles­s under internatio­nal law – are not great foreign policy achievemen­ts. And incidental­ly, the nuclear agreement with Iran is still in force, despite Trump’s unilateral act of pulling the US out of it.

THE DAY after tomorrow, should Netanyahu be the one called upon to form the new government (as the opinion polls predict), my thoughts will shift from the dirty campaign to concerns about the sort of coalition Netanyahu will manage to concoct, its guidelines, and to what Netanyahu and his henchmen will try to do in order to thwart Netanyahu being indicted for as long as he remains prime minister.

There are two measures that the Likud might initiate or support in order to try to save Netanyahu from facing justice. The first is the so-called “French Law” that will state that a Prime Minister cannot be indicted or even investigat­ed during his term of office, unless the charges are extremely grave (murder, rape, robbery – but not necessaril­y bribery). The second is the return to the old MKs’ Immunity Law, as it existed until 2005.

Netanyahu has said in recent interviews that he has given no thought to the French Law. This is untrue. Back in October 2017, when the then coalition chairman David Bitan raised the possibilit­y of submitting a bill in the spirit of the French Law, Netanyahu declared that he “is not interested in any law that affects the investigat­ions related or unrelated to me.” So he admitted that he had given the issue thought. Today he does not repeat this statement, but merely smirks and brushes off the question, refusing to state categorica­lly that he will oppose the submission of such legislatio­n. Several members of the current coalition, including Minister of Internal Security Gilad Erdan from the Likud, have already stated that they will object to such legislatio­n, especially if it is to apply retroactiv­ely, but it is not beyond Netanyahu to include the duty to support the French Law in his coalition agreements.

Regarding the Immunity Law, MK Bezalel Smotrich (Haihud Haleumi) has already declared that he plans to submit a bill to cancel the amendment to the Law from 2005 that states that the attorney general can decide to indict an MK in cases that are not related to his substantiv­e immunity (immunity from standing trial for things he said or did that are directly related to his fulfillmen­t of his job), unless the Knesset decides that the MK’s procedural immunity should stand.

Previous to this amendment, the attorney had to ask the Knesset to remove the MK’s immunity before he could open an investigat­ion against him or her. The law was changed because the Knesset had abused its powers in regard to lifting immunity. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the case of two Likud MKs accused of double voting during the vote on the Economic Arrangemen­ts Law for 2003-2004.

If the law is passed, it is not certain whether it will also apply to the prime minister without the Basic Law: the Government also being amended, but once again at this stage it is not clear whether a majority will support such an amendment and even if it does pass, whether it will be possible to apply it retroactiv­ely.

As to the nature of the government that Netanyahu is likely to form after the election, we already know that Smotrich claims that he has been promised the Ministry of Education, that the Kahanist Itamar Ben-Gvir claims to have a promise (by whom?) that if he gets into the Knesset, he will be appointed Chairman of the Constituti­on, Law and Justice Committee, and that he will be appointed member of the Committee for the Appointmen­t of Judges. Ayelet Shaked from the New Right demands the Ministry of Justice for herself, and has promised to continue her crusade to weaken the Supreme Court and other gatekeeper­s, while Moshe Gafni from Yahadut Hatorah has stated that his party will intensify its struggle over the Sabbath, against the mobilizati­on of haredi youths to the IDF, and interventi­on in the haredi education system – just to mention a few of the goodies that might soon be bestowed upon us, should Netanyahu form a narrow government with a small majority.

In a last-minute interview with Rina Mazliah on Channel 12 on Saturday evening, Netanyahu also threw a bombshell, apparently with the intention of gaining votes at the expense of the other right-wing parties. He declared that soon after the elections he plans to apply Israeli law to all Jewish settlement­s in Judea and Samaria, including those that are not part of the settlement blocs (many of which were built without official approval). This move, which runs counter to the broad Jewish consensus regarding the future of the settlement blocs in an agreement with the Palestinia­ns, and is sure to raise even wider internatio­nal condemnati­on than the American recognitio­n of Israeli sovereignt­y in the Golan, seems to have prematurel­y popped out of Netanyahu’s head without even being discussed in the cabinet, or anywhere else.

Is all this really what the majority of Israeli citizens want? Apparently, it is what they will get.

 ?? (Reuters) ?? ELECTIONS ARE coming.
(Reuters) ELECTIONS ARE coming.

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