Haaretz/Israel: People who met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in recent months have heard lengthy speeches that seemed to be taken from one of Oliver Stone’s conspiracist screenplays. He told them that even though he has been elected repeatedly, in reality, the country is controlled by a “deep state.”
“There’s no democracy here, but a government of bureaucrats and jurists,” he said.
The strings of this shadow government are ostensibly pulled by the prosecution, which Netanyahu views as more dangerous than Hezbollah’s precision missiles. Prosecutors and judges, he believes, have a symbiotic relationship whose goal is ousting him.
“They want to see me sitting in jail,” he said in one private conversation, where “they” meant the entire system. Even before the judges hearing his criminal cases were chosen, he was convinced that a hidden hand would arrange the most “left-wing” and least lenient bench possible.
Before the elections, when several ministers asked why Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman sought to topple him, Netanyahu repeatedly blamed those same hidden forces. “He’s being extorted,” the prime minister said.
In his view, the law enforcement agencies have information that would justify a criminal investigation against Lieberman, but won’t use it as long as he’s working to destroy Netanyahu politically. The information, he says, relates to Lieberman’s involvement in a major corruption case in which other members of his party were charged.
Lieberman has his own fantastic theory, in which Netanyahu was behind the investigation of that case.
But a source familiar with both cases said that just as no evidence was found linking Netanyahu to his cronies’ corrupt behavior in the purchase of new submarines, no evidence was found tying Lieberman to his cronies’ behavior in the Yisrael Beiteinu case.
In 2009, when his political fate also depended on Lieberman, Netanyahu capitulated to all his demands, including the two portfolios that control the law enforcement system – justice (the prosecution) and public security (the police) – plus the chairmanship of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee and a representative on the Judicial Appointments Committee. At the time, Lieberman was suspected of taking bribes in a case ultimately closed due to insufficient evidence.
Even before the decision to indict him was made, Netanyahu had adopted a strategy of smearing the legal system to destroy public trust in it and wear it down. Appointing Ohana was a key move in this campaign, and Netanyahu will undoubtedly be sorry to lose him.
Nevertheless, ceding the Justice Ministry seems like a trivial concession compared to the enormous gains, from Netanyahu’s standpoint, of dismantling the opposition and freezing planned legislation against him.
“Netanyahu’s getting something amazing here,” a senior government official said. “All the people who said they wouldn’t serve under him are accepting him as prime minister. Gantz, [Gabi] Ashkenazi and Co. are giving him legitimacy, and that also affects the legal system. So he gave up the justice portfolio and Ohana … but on balance, it’s definitely worth it for him.”