On Mandelblit’s Kangaroo Court, Rav Meir Kahane, and Israeli Democracy

Ah, Israeli democracy! Thy very name is bribery, fraud, and breach of trust! How Israeli democracy undermines and threatens itself. Opinion.

Rabbi Prof. Dov Fischer ,

Rabbi Prof. Dov Fischer
Rabbi Prof. Dov Fischer
צילום: PR
For nearly half a century — yes, it has been that long since his 1972 aliyah and his 1973 first run for Knesset — Rav Meir Kahane Hy”d (may G-d avenge his blood) has been the bugaboo for the Israeli Left and their exaggerated cries that “Israeli Democracy” is imperiled. Now that we have had the benefit of time’s passage to study reality more dispassionately, it seems that Arabs never lost the right to vote this past half century, the Left never lost the right to compete fully and to overthrow the freely expressed will of the majority, and Israeli democracy has not been infringed.

Rather, the once-dominant Labor Party seems to have died on its own, the result of decades of wrong-headed policies, promulgated by party heads who were simply wrong. The entire Israeli left has never been weaker. Meretz joined with Labor in the latest election because it was not clear in advance whether either would have gotten past the electoral threshold if they had run separately. And now Labor has abandoned Meretz for a Netanyahu government.

Meanwhile, the voters of Blue-White cast their ballots for a government without Netanyahu, but their leader Benny Gantz broke their hearts and then broke apart the Blue-White coalition to unite with Netanyahu. An understandably disheartened Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid felt no less betrayed by Gantz than did Tamar Zandberg of Meretz when her running mate, Orly Levy-Abekasis, also split for the Netanyahu government, adding even that she eventually will vote to extend sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria. Even the surviving Telem faction within Blue-White disintegrated, as Yoaz Hendel and Zvi Hauser broke off from Moshe Ya’alon to form their “Derech Eretz” faction and join the new government.

Ah, Israeli democracy!

For those on the right, the scene is not unparalleled. How did the Oslo travesty happen? A very clear majority voted right wing, but many votes were completely lost by small splinter parties that failed to pass the electoral threshold, and then two utter unknowns whose names will be stained always, Goldfarb and Segev, who had been on the slate of Raful Eitan’s right-wing Tzomet Party, sold out for personal political favors extended to them by Yitzhak Rabin.

Ah, Israeli democracy! Thy very name is bribery, fraud, and breach of trust.

Later, a landslide of voters elected a right-wing Likud candidate, Ariel Sharon, as prime minister, even as they rejected the left-wing Ehud Barak, perhaps the worst failure as a prime minister in Israeli political history. And then, after starting strong, Sharon deviated way to the left, abandoned the Likud, formed a [Kadima] party that aimed at giving up land unilaterally, gave up Gush Katif and Gaza without any meaningful security arrangements, and then would have done the same in Judea and Samaria had Sharon not been felled by one stroke and then by another even more powerful.

Ah, Israeli democracy!

It never was Rabbi Meir Kahane and his Kach Party that actually undermined Israeli democracy. It was — and is — Israeli democracy that undermines and threatens Israeli democracy.

What is the point of voting if the system convolutes the final results and turns the election on its head? The voters elect a right-wing government and get Oslo? They throw out Barak, and they end up with Sharon and Ehud Olmert trying to give away parts of the country to anyone willing to take it? Or the left votes to get rid of Netanyahu and then sees, one by one, their elected representatives violate their campaign pledges?

This is democracy? Or is it bribery, fraud, and breach of trust?

  • But, as in America, the Left always has extra cards to play outside the electoral process when they lose. In America, they secretly and illegally entrapped Lt. Gen Michael Flynn, the incoming national security advisor to the new president.
  • They tried to induce “electors” selected for the “electoral college” to violate their pledges for Trump and instead to vote for Hillary Clinton.
  • They falsified a narrative that Trump had coordinated with Vladimir Putin to steal the American election.
  • They then aimed to kill Trump with a thousand cuts by pursuing a viciously dishonest impeachment process.

In all this, they not only were assisted by the Leftist media but worked in concert with them, leaving unclear which was leading the attempted coup and which was following.

There is absolutely nothing more devastating to and destructive of Israeli democracy than the sham and kangaroo court now trying Prime Minister Netanyahu on three sets of ridiculous charges.
And now the same in Israel. There is absolutely nothing more devastating to and destructive of Israeli democracy than the sham and kangaroo court now trying Prime Minister Netanyahu on three sets of ridiculous charges.

First, a personal remark. Character counts, and Bibi’s is not sterling. Just as one can support President Trump’s policies avidly but acknowledge that aspects of his character are abysmal, it likewise cannot be gainsaid that Netanyahu has a remarkable propensity to make life-long enemies out of those who work closest with him and thus know him best. Avigdor Lieberman. Avichai Mandelblit. Naftali Bennett. It is a much longer list.

Certainly, every government sees some falling out. In America, for example, it occasionally happens that a cabinet member or two eventually writes a book deprecating the President under whom they served. But it is not like the remarkable antipathy that Bibi has generated among those who know his inner workings best. In America, Reince Priebus was removed as the President’s first chief of staff, and Sean Spicer was replaced as press spokesman, but they still defend and support Trump completely. Bibi seems to generate distrust.

Likewise, there has emerged for all to see a vindictive and vengeful side that is painful to view and acknowledge. Gideon Sa’ar, elected as number five on the Likud list, is practically the only citizen in Israel today who does not have a ministry. This is plainly wrong and shameful. Or the shabby treatment of Naftali Bennett, who proved to be a very good defense minister, and of Ayelet Shaked, who proved an excellent justice minister. This is inexcusable.

But Netanyahu has been an excellent prime minister.

  • He guided Israel to a magnificent generational economic awakening. He has held the fort against Hamas in the south and Abu Mazen in the east, while destroying the Hezbollah tunnels in the north and unabashedly working to drive Iran out of Syria.
  • He has established relations for Israel with countries and governments whose friendship or passive support once was inconceivable.
  • He has opened Israel to the Arab world.
  • On the America front, he not only has gotten the embassy moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem but now has Israel on the precipice of extending sovereignty throughout the Jordan Valley and the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria.
  • And his role in the coronavirus nightmare may be compared to that of Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York State and Mayor Bill De Blasio of New York City. Israel has 9 million people. New York State has 19 million, approximately twice as many. New York City has 8.3 million. As of this writing, there have been more than 29,000 deaths in New York State from coronavirus; of them, more than 20,000 deaths in New York City. By contrast, the number in Israel is under 300. Do the math.

Yet the Left is determined to take him down. As a result, Netanyahu is on trial — and there is reason to fear that Avichai Mandelblit’s kangaroo court ultimately will convict him — for utter non-crimes.

Bibi’s alleged actions were not criminal but political.

He helped a guy who makes award-winning American movies get a visa into America, a proper action by the Prime Minister, and he accepted personal gifts like expensive cigars and champagne. That is hedonistic, reminiscent of Shimon Peres’s love of la dolce vita, and the opposite of the more pious, frugal, and modest lifestyles of Prime Ministers like Menachem Begin and Itzhak Shamir, both of blessed memory. So that overboard materialism is for voters to judge, not for a court to adjudicate.

Next, Bibi had conversations with a newspaper publisher about helping that guy’s newspaper to the detriment of another if the publisher would give Bibi more favorable coverage. Yes, that is unseemly, but much of politics is disgusting and unseemly — just consider the 36 ministries now on Israel’s table. And, besides, Bibi never sold out Israel Hayom in the end anyway.

The same may be said for File 4000. He wanted better coverage from Walla! and the Walla! guy then got benefits in Bezek? That is politics — dirty, disgusting, filthy, lice-ridden politics.

That is how democracy works. When people in America pay $5,000 a plate to attend a candidate’s dinner, it is not because the food is that good. Rubber chicken is rubber chicken. When they bundle campaign donations to hand a candidate $100,000 or many hundreds of thousands, of course they expect access — and of course they get it. That is how it works. That is how their companies get tax breaks, easements, and other special considerations. That is why union bosses give money to Democrats and why oil executives support Republicans. It is why American politicians speak at AIPAC and at the NAACP.

It all is about access, money, positive coverage, and votes.

You want an arraignment for political corruption in Israel? Well, look no further than all the new ministries. Is that not bribery, fraud, and breach of trust? The United States now has sixteen cabinet secretaries to run a country of 300 million people. Does Israel, with one-thirtieth the population, really need more than twice as many cabinet ministers? Of course not. It is pure bribery and breach of trust, with plenty of fraud mixed in. But that is politics.

You need Gantz to break up Blue-White and to turn colors, so you give him more ministers than a Baptist mega-church. And when you cannot even think of so many ministries? Well, you break them up and re-mix them. A minister for high schools and water. (Teens drink a lot of water.) And if Minister Without Portfolio Tzachi Hanegbi loses patience waiting for Minister Tzipi Hotovely to become an ambassador somewhere, there always is the Ministry for Silly Walks.

There is no other way to say it: Democracy by its nature always entails aspects of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. By accepted convention throughout the democratic world, the exchange of political favors for political support is at the core of how the game is played. Thus, the trial of Prime Minister Netanyahu is a disgrace, a strong-armed effort by the Israeli Left to overthrow a legitimately elected Prime Minister, and the most severe danger to Israeli democracy in the country’s history.

Rabbi Prof. Dov Fischer is adjunct professor of law at two prominent Southern California law schools, Senior Rabbinic Fellow at the Coalition for Jewish Values, congregational rabbi of Young Israel of Orange County, California, and has held prominent leadership roles in several national rabbinic and other Jewish organizations. He was Chief Articles Editor of UCLA Law Review, clerked for the Hon. Danny J. Boggs in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and served for most of the past decade on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. His writings have appeared in The Weekly Standard, National Review, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Jerusalem Post, American Thinker, Frontpage Magazine, Spectator, and Israel National News. Other writings are collected at www.rabbidov.com .