Categorized | Middle East, Sharkansky_Ira

Sara, Bibi may both face criminal trials

 

By Ira Sharkansky

Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM — The Legal Adviser to the Government, often called the Attorney General, has announced an indictment against Sara Netanyahu.

We’ve known for some time the numerous accusations against the woman that some would label the country’s First Haridan. She’s been described by media and those who claim to know as a screamer, and an exploiter of position for personal gain. Much of the details seem trivial, like using a care provider paid for by the government to assist her terminaly ill father, taking for herself the money received by employees for returning empty bottles, using furniture bought for the official residence at the family’s private home, and padding the list of people invited to meals paid for by the government.

The picture that emerges is at least a modest level of corruption, defined as such by the total of values we’ve read about. Among the problems is the lack of a general charge for corruption, or behaving in an unseemly fashion. The actual charges involve misusing public trust and fraud.

Bibi has already said that the charges are absurd, and that the family’s attorneys will prove that the details derive from the work of a disreputable former manager who’s long been competing against Sara in various legal disputes. The Prime Minister has brought forth supporting noise from crowds of the party faithful, claiming a distorted and prolonged campaign by partisan media personalities, who dare make a case about a minor bookkeeping error resulting from Sara’s anguish when her father was dying.

While the stories about Sara are said to have reached the equivalent of $100,000 in ill-gotten gains, those involving Bibi have gone beyond that. Being investigated are allegations that he provided help with official matters in exchange for expensive gifts, some of them involving jewelry requested by Sara. We can expect claims that there was no quid pro quo, but only the Prime Minister’s activity in behalf of what he perceived as worthy causes. He’ll talk about friendships, while cynics will tell us that politicians have no friends, but only interests.

Then there is the case of Bibi saying that he’d curb the free newspaper Israel Hayom (Israel Today) in exchange for getting better treatment from the editor of Yedioth Aharonoth (Latest News), Bibi’s close associates, including one cousin, making millions associated with the construction of submarines and other warships by a German shipyard, and other close associates involved in complex manipulations at Israel’s principal media conglomerate.

Investigations into Bibi and Sara, with lesser matters concerning a son, Yair, have gone on for several years. Recently there have been weekly demonstrations near the home of the Legal Adviser to the Government, with thousands waving signs and chanting that it’s time to finish and get to indictment.

Yair’s problems seem more those of a spoiled First Son than anything heavily criminal. He is said to have enjoyed the overseas favors of a billionaire wanting something from Dad, failure to pick up the droppings of the family dog, then raising his third finger to a passerby who called him on it.

His latest headlines are about a Facebook posting that went viral, a cartoon described as Nazis in style, that shows George Sonos as a puppeteer pulling strings maneuvering Ehud Barak and two lesser characters in anti-Bibi actions. Yair has dismissed criticism from Barak, calling him a drunk who likes whiskey.

Ha’aretz published a cartoon showing the First Family, hooded in the frock of the KKK, with Yair ecstatic over news that David Duke praised his posting.

Some Likudniks and an majority of Israelis answering polls have had enough, and are urging things to move forward to an indictment and resignation.

No democracy should move quickly and without extensive deliberation in dismissing a key official who’s reached office legally. We can argue as to how much time is too much, when a prosecutor has enough to begin a court case, and at what point an official charged must resign.

The law demands that officials below the level of Prime Minister resign when indicted for a serious crime. The Prime Minister is allowed to stay in office until found guilty, but the political realities made that impossible for Ehud Olmert, and may also bring Bibi’s career to an end. The speed of Israeli courts make it likely that a case against the PM will drag on for years. Chances are that his colleagues in government will force a resignation, perhaps in response to mounting demonstrations that the country cannot tolerate a Prime Minister spending considerable time with lawyers and judges.

Some Israelis say that their officials are especially corrupt. However, the relevant political science rests on surveys reflecting judgements by individuals with limited cross-national experience. Israel may take pride–despite the length of procedures–in having jailed one President, one Prime Minister, several lesser Ministers, Mayors, and figures lower down in national and local governments.

Bibi is as complex as they come. Along with what seems to be personal and family corruption is his political genius and service to the people of Israel. By some measures, he has survived as Prime Minister longer than any of his predecessors. It’s hard to fault his performance on the crucial issues of international relations and national security. He acts as a careful moderate, even while speaking shrilly as something close to an extremist. In this he balances his support from his right of center constituency, while acting as a responsible national leader, all the while compartmentalizing a legal defense of himself and his wife.

Many American Jews were embarrassed or aghast at Bibi’s speech in Congress that blasted Obama’s deal with Iran, but it was well received by Israelis, including those in the center and left who did not vote for him.

There have been trips abroad to places marginal to Israel’s interests, Africa and Latin America. Bibi may need those, along with ramped up speeches to those Likudniks supporting him, to boost his morale.

We have not heard that prison authorities have dismantled the special facilities used for the recently paroled Ehud Olmert.

We also don’t know if there is provision that would allow Bibi and Sara to serve together, or if they would prefer to spend such time with one another.

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Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University. He may be contacted via [email protected]

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