A range of top current and former officials weighed in on Thursday about whether or not Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Wednesday rally will intimidate the state prosecution from indicting him.
Beyond verbally attacking the media for their portrayal of the current criminal investigations against him, some officials suggested that Netanyahu also indirectly targeted the legal establishment.
In response, Justice Ministry spokesman Moshe Cohen said attempts to intimidate the legal establishment “have never influenced, will not influence and it is prohibited for them to influence” the prosecution from objectively performing its role.
Still, he said that such attempts are “dangerous” and that criminal investigations “are not a political matter.”
He did not say, however, if he believed the prosecution was one of Netanyahu’s targets.
Cohen singled out Likud MK Oren Hazan for going too far in his statements against law enforcement.
Retired Supreme Court justice and Press Council president Dalia Dorner agreed with Cohen that the rally would not affect the investigations.
“We have a free, independent and impartial legal system that does its work” regardless of even the most intense outside criticism, she told The Jerusalem Post.
Quoting Deuteronomy, Dorner said that “you shall not tremble before any man” was a principle that she and all current prosecutors and judges live by.
Although Dorner refrained from taking a position on whether Netanyahu should resign if indicted, she noted that former Supreme Court president Meir Shamgar has already said the prime minister should resign due to the severity of the suspicions against him.
Meanwhile, officials from the opposite school of thought said that the rally was designed to intimidate political opposition, the media and law enforcement.
Even if law enforcement officials do their best to edit out the “noise” of public debate, they told the Post, Wednesday’s rally was so unprecedented that it will be hard to ignore.
They cited as an example the 18-month sentence that Hebron shooter Elor Azaria received, suggesting that it would not have been as lenient had there not have been as much public pressure.
Even former prime minister Ehud Olmert was not as aggressive as Netanyahu, they said. Whereas Olmert issued statements delegitimizing charges against him and said certain law enforcement officials were on a political crusade against him, Netanyahu’s public rally was more aggressive in its attacks, they explained.
Those concerned about the prime minister trying to delegitimize and intimidate the legal establishment said that from personal experience, the idea that law enforcement is anti-right wing is nonsense.
Law enforcement officials have mixed political views just as regular Israelis do, and in the past were even accused by Olmert of being anti-left wing, they added.
Some officials also believe that Netanyahu must resign if indicted even if the “dry letter of the law” does not explicitly require it.
According to this view, Netanyahu should not remain in power if he continues to refuse to explain to the public his side of the story, beyond what he has said: “There will be nothing because there is nothing.”
This view is based on the idea that even if public figures have a right to the presumption of innocence like normal citizens, they have a greater obligation to explain their actions to the public.
Those with this view say the rally, the political threats leveled against ministers so that they would attend and the time and energy put into organizing the event, are Exhibit A as to how much the investigations are distracting Netanyahu from doing his job.