We all knew the indictments were coming, just as we all knew two months ago that Israel would be going to third elections in a year. If Bibi could not get to a 61-seat Knesset majority when the religious-nationalist bloc he leads had won 60 seats in April, he was not going to get it with the reduced bloc of 55 he won in September. And Gantz was not going to make it because, once Gantz nullified all religious advocates, he was left with needing to blend Avigdor Liberman’s nationalist but anti-religious agenda with the Arab Joint List that is nationalist in the Arab anti-Zionist vein. Despite all the bluster, that was not in the cards.
Likewise, we knew the indictments were coming. Perhaps the final give-away was when Prime Minister Netanyahu’s attorneys arrived to present their massive last-ditch legal arguments, and they were told that Liat Ben Ari, the prosecutor at the center of the investigations, would not be attending half the hearings on the defense’s evidence and arguments because she was going away to South Africa on family vacation. While heading the taxation and economic crimes division of the state prosecution’s Tel Aviv district, Ben Ari was appointed deputy state attorney. After attending the first two days of the hearings, she skipped out over the weekend before defense attorneys resumed their efforts for two more fateful days.
In America, Ben Ari’s behavior would be unthinkable. It would be she who would come under scrutiny and probably be fired. Ask any serious attorney, not even a government lead prosecutor — at least in America — what happens when a major legal matter is calendared to take place during a major litigation. Aside from being a law professor at two law schools, I have practiced complex business litigation for more than a decade, most of it at three major firms: JonesDay, Akin Gump, and BakerHostetler. I will tell you this: If I have planned a vacation-of-a-lifetime, a once-in-my-life travel with my family, and we all have cleared our calendars, bought our air tickets, reserved our hotel rooms — and then an urgent legal matter arises in the litigation — we all have to cancel and reschedule the vacation. And if the once-in-ap-lifetime vacation just cannot be rescheduled, then we do not even have to be told what that means. We know the two words that the managing partner of the office will tell us: Tough Luck.
When Liat Ben Ari did not show up to hear Netanyahu’s attorneys, it was clear that “the fix” was in, and the indictment was set....if this were happening in America, the Senate promptly would have begun hearings to investigate whether the Attorney General who allowed this to happen without rescheduling the hearings should himself have been removed.
When Liat Ben Ari did not show up to hear Netanyahu’s attorneys make half their comprehensive multi-day presentations, it was clear that “the fix” was in, and the indictment was set. So there was no need to delay her vacation, her chofesh. Frankly, not only would she have been fired if this were happening in America, but the United States Senate promptly would have begun hearings to investigate whether the Attorney General who allowed this to happen without rescheduling the hearings should himself have been removed.
It all is just a shame. It reminds me of the way that Arab Christians killed Arab Muslims in the Shatilla and Sabra terror camps in September 1982, and the Israeli Left immediately gathered in the tens of thousands to blame the government of Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Defense Minister Ariel Sharon. Sharon sued Time Magazine for its coverage, and a New York federal jury came back with a verdict that Time had lied about Sharon. But the Israeli Left perpetuated some ethical value that does not exist in a normal world of ethics, the Jewish Left illness self-flagellating — or, rather, flagellating their opponents on the right.
Frankly, if I had been Israel’s Prime Minister, I would not have accepted cigars or champagne from friends while in office. My tastes are more modest. Besides, I don’t smoke, and I very rarely drink except for wine at Shabbat kiddush. But I come from a more modest culture, rooted in Torah and rabbinic teachings. Also, my years of litigation and decades in the rabbinate and public eye have taught me about appearances, about being cautious and anticipating how enemies see only the the worst. One of my most profound life mentors has been the Hon. Danny J. Boggs, for whom I was honored to clerk in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. During the year of my federal judicial appellate clerkship, I saw first-hand how modestly he lived, how ethical he was about receiving any gifts, even at birthday or Christmas time. So I would not have accepted the cigars and bubbly.
Likewise, I would not have gotten involved in discussing ways to get leftist corrupt news publishers to change their perspectives. You cannot get far with people who are inherently corrupt. Bibi at least, like American conservative presidents here, has an outlet or two to tell his story most of the time. In America, it is Fox News and several talk-radio shows, as well as online publications like The American Spectator, the Wall Street Journal, National Review, DailyWire, Breitbart, and others. In Israel there is Arutz Sheva – Israel National News,Israel Hayom, and some other outlets. And that is what it means to be a political conservative in an era when media are dominated by a Corrupt Journalist Corps of the left. It has been that way at least for a century. The New York Times, for example, lied about Stalin’s Golodomor mass murder of Ukrainians, then covered up Hitler’s Holocaust of Jews, and then tried to prevent the establishment of the State of Israel.
So I would not have done what Bibi did. But he did not violate law. He did not engage in bribery. And he surely did not perpetrate an offense that would put him in a category with the likes of Ehud Olmert or others of that ilk.
In America, the process to remove the head of government is now playing out. It is a political game, a disgusting sham, but here is how it is done. We have two legislative chambers, the House of Representatives (the “Lower Chamber”) and the United States Senate (the “Upper Chamber”). When the President is accused of treason or another “high crime [or] misdemeanor,” the House Judiciary Committee holds investigatory hearings, taking public testimony and evidence. We have two main parties, the Democrats and the Republicans. The committee has an odd number of members, and the majority party in the House gets the extra seat.
After the hearings are done, the Committee votes whether to recommend an indictment, which we call an “impeachment” when dealing with possibly removing government officials from office. An indictment or “impeachment” does not mean that a crime actually has been perpetrated, only that there seems possibly, maybe, perhaps to be enough evidence to warrant a full trial to get to the bottom of it. Invariably, the committee members vote along party lines. If it is a Republican president, the Democrats on the committee vote to impeach, and the Republicans vote not. And if it is a Democrat president, then vice-versa. The only time that a committee member from the President’s own party also would vote to recommend impeachment is when (i) the evidence against the President is quite striking and overwhelming, and (ii) the vote is obvious anyway, and at least someone else from that party also will vote with him.
If the House Judiciary Committee votes to recommend impeachment, then the entire House conducts a public debate on the Committee report. If the majority vote to approve the recommendation, that means the President has been impeached, i.e. indicted. The President remains in office. It is not even a question whether he should step down. After all, there has not been a trial, and he has not been convicted of any wrongdoing. The impeachment merely means that there is enough there to justify looking deeper in a trial, rather than just to throw out the charges as complete nonsense.
There is then a trial in the Upper Chamber, the Senate. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides over the trial. And then there is a vote. If two-thirds of the Senators vote for conviction, the President is convicted and out. Anything less does not matter. There have been only two successful Presidential impeachments in American history, and the Democrats in the House seem quite intent on making President Trump number three. The previous two, like the current one, were totally political maneuvers, devoid of any real crime justifying removal. There was no justification to impeach Andrew Johnson in 1868. His problem was that he was a Southerner from Tennessee whom Abraham Lincoln of Illinois in the North had chosen as his running mate during the Civil War era. When Lincoln was assassinated early in his second term and Johnson therefore succeeded him, the anti-South majority in the Congress were determined to get rid of him.
And with the Bill Clinton impeachment more than a century later, he lied under oath about extramarital matters that he did not want his wife, his daughter, and the American public to know, so the Republicans used that to impeach him. In both impeachments, the Senate did not vote two-thirds to convict, and the matter ended. Thus it will happen if the Democrat House impeaches Trump. And, as the Clinton impeachment trial led to the defeat of his accusers, so will a Senate trial of Trump almost surely guarantee his reelection by an outraged electorate in 2020, probably with his Republicans holding their Senate majority and very possibly even winning back the House.
It is a shame that some Israelis seem intent on consuming our own. American major legal scholars like Prof. Alan Dershowitz and others have written publicly that there is no such thing as bribery — the central charge in case 4000 — when the “pay off” desired simply is better media coverage. Likewise, a political leader can advocate whatever legislation he wishes.
For goodness sakes, politicians everywhere in the world always promote legislation to assist, enrich, and help their friends — especially in Israel, a country that was dominated for decades by the shadow of “protektzia.” That is why people often make friendships with politicians or with people who are friends with politicians. “Do you know Chaim the City Councilman? Can you ask him to help me get a traffic light on my street?” Or: “Aren’t you friends with the Governor? Can you help me get him to assist me with a license for my business? I can make a nice donation to his election campaign.” For goodness sakes, so many of the biggest donors make monetary gifts to politicians in exchange for access and favors. Just think of the “Clinton Foundation.” Pay to play. Money and politics goes hand-in-hand, literally. Minor donors contribute to politicians they believe in, but the mega-donors buy access and favors. Everyone knows this, and it is so legal that it is transparent.
In the present cases, for example, Bibi received champagne and cigars from long-time acquaintances, and he helped a guy who successfully produced American movies get a visa to get back into America. So what? And he advocated legislation that would give tax enhancements to a guy if he brought his millions of dollars back into Israel. So what? That happens every day in America.
Here in California, the Teachers’ Union makes huge donations to Democrats, and then they pass laws that hurt children’s education in the schools but protect incompetent teachers and increases their benefits. Hollywood people make massive donations and hold millionaires’ parties for Democrats, and then the politicians pass laws that reduce or cancel certain state corporate business taxes for the movie makers. So Case 1000 is ridiculous.
And then Case 2000: Bibi is accused of advancing legislation to help Yediot Achronot at the expense of Israel Hayom when, in fact, he never even brought the legislation?
And Case 4000: He advocated regulations that would help a guy in Bezeq get enormously richer if he gave Bibi better coverage in Walla!? So what? If the voters think the regulation was wrong, then vote him out.
That is how we do it in America. If the Republicans only take care of the oil barons and forget the little guys, then the little guys vote them out. Then if the Democrats spend all their time appealing to their identity politics constituencies and forget about the middle-class working people who actually live in America legally and actually pay the taxes that support all their welfare hand-outs, the middle-class working people elect Trump. That is how it works. The voters decide whether change is needed. You don’t impeach someone for that.
On top of all the above, for those who have been paying attention to the world lately, Islamic Jihad just rained 400 rockets down on southern Israel while Iran confederates in Syria just shot four missiles into northern Israel. Hezbollah has amassed more than 100,000 rockets in South Lebanon aimed at Israel as far down as Haifa and Hadera, and Hamas and Gaza have thousands of their own in Gaza aimed not only at Sderot but at Ashkelon, Ashdod, and even Gush Dan. Iran is making rumblings about nuclear weapons. The European Union is starting up again.
Meanwhile, the President of the United States relates really well to Bibi, has acceded to Bibi’s efforts to persuade America to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan, reject any further labeling of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria as illegal, has closed down the PLO office in Washington, pulled out of the U.N. Human Rights Council, cut off funding to the UNRWA. Several countries have moved embassies or government offices to Jerusalem. Israel has developed its best relations with countries in Africa, East Europe, and South America in decades. Bibi even has developed a relationship with Vladimir Putin that may not have turned Russia into Israel’s best friend, or any kind of friend, but has changed the entire course of Jewish relations with a country that a million Jews desperately fled quite recently, in our lifetime.
So the indictments, though clearly anticipated, are just a terrible shame, the result of cynical politicians, despicable prosecutors who do not even have the basic professionalism or human decency to reschedule a family vacation at a moment of historical import, and a holier-than-thou justice system that cannot distinguish between real corruption and criminality, on the one hand, and impolitic political nonsense on the other.