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Reviews | Netanyahu cannot be trusted

Thank goodness Israeli civil society has forced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to suspend, for now, his attempt to impose his control over Israel’s independent judiciary and have a free hand to govern as he wishes. . But the whole affair has revealed a new and troubling reality for the United States: for the first time, the leader of Israel is an irrational actor, a danger not only to Israelis but also to important American interests and values.

This demands an immediate reassessment by President Biden and the pro-Israel Jewish lobby in America. Netanyahu basically told them all, “Trust the process,” “Israel is a healthy democracy,” and, in a whisper, “Don’t worry about the religious fanatics and Jewish supremacists I brought to power to help to block my trial for corruption. I will keep Israel within its traditional political and foreign borders. It’s me, your old friend, Bibi.

They wanted to trust him, and it all turned out to be a lie.

From day one, it was obvious to many of us that this Israeli government would go to extremes that none before it had ever dared. Absent any real guardrails, this would cause the United States and world Jewry to cross red lines they never imagined they would cross, while possibly destabilizing Jordan and the Abraham Accords. , eliminating hope for a two-state solution and bringing Israel, in its 75th anniversary year, to the brink of civil war.

Indeed, the key to implementing the government’s radical agenda has always been, first, to take control of Israel’s Supreme Court – the only legitimate independent check on the ambitions of Netanyahu and his hardline coalition partners. – through a process disguised as “judicial reform”.

With the judiciary brought into line, Israel would be governed more like elected autocracies, like Hungary and Turkey, than the Israel the world has always known. And Netanyahu and his partners have pursued this kind of political control of the courts above any other priority they have moved on, bringing the country to the brink of ‘civil war’ – as Netanyahu admitted in his national address. Monday evening.

Faced with such a civil war — after an unprecedented weekend of revolt by a broad cross-section of Israeli society, its armed forces and even some members of his own party — Netanyahu offered to suspend his takeover efforts. control and give about a month for negotiations with the opposition to see if a compromise can be found.

Let’s see what happens. But one thing is already clear: Netanyahu has become the definition of an irrational actor in international relations – someone whose behavior we can no longer predict and whose words President Biden should not be trusted with. For starters, the United States must ensure that Netanyahu does not use American weapons to engage in a war of his choosing with Iran or Hezbollah without the full and independent approval of Israel’s military high command. who opposed his judicial coup.

Why do I insist that Netanyahu has become an irrational actor and a danger to our interests and values? This is a question that can be answered with a question:

How would you describe an Israeli prime minister and his son who, after 50 years of the US sending Israel billions and billions of dollars in economic and military aid, spread the lie that the US government was behind the massive protests against the Prime Minister – that it couldn’t be a genuine grassroots protest? It was to be funded by the United States.

I did not invent.

Yair Netanyahu, his father’s closest political adviser, shared conspiratorial tweets last week with his many right-wing Israeli Twitter followers, The Jerusalem Post reported, like this: “The US State Department is behind the protests in Israel, with the aim of overthrowing Netanyahu, ostensibly to make a deal with the Iranians. »

I wonder where it comes from? Well, two weeks ago The Times of Israel reported that while Netanyahu the Elder was on an official visit to Rome, a “senior official” from his travel party (including everyone in the Way galaxy Milky Way knows this is the prime minister’s own code) was quoted as saying (without any evidence): “This protest is funded and organized with millions of dollars. … It’s a very high level organization. The story continues: “Another member of the Prime Minister’s entourage confirmed that the senior official was referring to the United States.

It is the same conspiratorial thought that Iranian leaders are deploying to discredit the genuine democratic movement in Iran, led by Iranian women.

That Netanyahu and his son turn against America with the same pathetic cynicism as Iran is shameful – and crazy. Neither man should be allowed to enter America until they apologize.

This is not the only sign of what an irrational actor Netanyahu has become. Ask yourself: Which rational Israeli prime minister would risk fracturing his military – which this attempted judicial takeover did – at a time when Iran can now produce enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb in less than two weeks? , and accumulates diplomatic successes with the Arab allies of Israel?

Just over a week ago, Netanyahu’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, a respected military leader who started out as a naval commando, gave the prime minister a choice: freeze his judicial coup attempt without national dialogue or moving forward, having his Minister of Defense resign and causing large segments of the Army and Air Force reserves to refuse to report for duty.

Netanyahu then made the remarkable decision to fire Gallant. As Haaretz military correspondent Amos Harel said, “It’s hard to think of a senior defense official who wasn’t deeply shocked by Netanyahu’s decision. … Among current and former senior IDF officers, Sunday night’s discussion focused on whether a massive resignation of major generals and brigadier generals was necessary to stop the madness.

Also consider this: what rational Israeli prime minister would risk one of the greatest achievements of American and Israeli diplomacy in the Middle East, the Abraham Accords, in order to pass a judicial coup that would give the Jewish supremacists and nationalist fanatics in his cabinet? I’m talking about people like Netanyahu’s finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, who, as Axios described it, last week “gave a speech in Paris from a podium showing a map that included Jordan and the occupied West Bank as part of of Israel and declared that the Palestinian people were “an invention”.

This totally freaked out the UAE and Bahrain, not to mention Jordan, which is a key pillar of US strategy in the Middle East. If Netanyahu and company destabilize Jordan, they will sow the wind and reap the storm.

And which Israeli prime minister would try to pass a law to be able to appoint a three-time convicted tax cheat and financial crook – Shas party leader Aryeh Deri – as health and interior minister, with the promise to appoint him minister? of Finance at the next cabinet reshuffle?

In 1993, Deri was ordered by the Supreme Court to resign from the cabinet for corruption, but he remained head of Shas until 1999, when he was sentenced to three years in prison for accepting bribes. de-wine. Then in 2021, as The Times of Israel reported, Deri accepted a plea deal in which he admitted “to committing two tax offenses in exchange for his resignation from the Knesset” and payment of a fine. In January, the Supreme Court ruled that Deri was unfit to serve in government.

In case you missed it, on top of everything that’s going on, Netanyahu tried to rush through legislation to overrule the Supreme Court so his crony who defrauded the Israeli Treasury – to which US taxpayers have donated billions in aid over the past half century – may eventually be charged with that same treasury.

The contempt all of this shows for Israeli taxpayers, for the rule of law in Israel, for the Israeli Supreme Court and for America is just more evidence of a leader who has completely lost all ethical mooring .

It is finally time for the US government, the US Congress and American Jewish leaders and lobbyists, who have too often been Netanyahu’s enablers, to signal unequivocally that they are also marching with all these Israelis – from the army, the high-tech community, universities, traditional religious communities, doctors, nurses, air force pilots, bankers, labor unions and even the colonies – who took to the streets last week to ensure that the 75th anniversary of Israeli democracy will not be the last.

nytimes Gt

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