The parallels are obvious. Though both US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu deserve due process, their narcissism has resulted in similar behavior and potential criminal charges being waged against them.
This week we have learned that there is solid evidence that Bibi has engaged in bribery, fraud, and breach of the public trust. His response has been to attack the police and his political enemies as conducting a witch-hunt.
Trump has throughout his presidency attacked the FBI and intelligence services, the courts, the free and independent press, the independent investigator, and any opponent or critic as conducting a witch-hunt against him.
After a painstaking year and a half investigation by the Israeli police, the police issued a non-binding recommendation that there is credible evidence that the Prime Minister has engaged in bribery, fraud and breach of trust in two separate cases.
Case 1000 involves Netanyahu receiving $286,000 in cigars and champagne as gifts primarily from Israeli mogul Arnon Milchin in exchange for Netanyahu pushing to extend the so-called “Milchin law” that cuts taxes for Israelis who make their money outside of Israel for another 10 years. Bibi had appealed to former Secretary of State John Kerry to institute this provision.
Case 2000 involves Bibi trying to make a deal with the owner of Israel’s second-largest newspaper, Yidiot Achronot, that he would get favorable coverage if he would persuade Israel Hayom’s owner Sheldon Adelson, who owns the largest free newspaper in the country, to not publish on weekends. Though the deal was never made, the conspiracy to manipulate the press is considered by many in Israel to be a criminal offense.
In response to the accusations by the police this week, Netanyahu defended himself as a loyal servant of the Jewish people and State of Israel, as a former commando in the IDF, as a former UN Ambassador, and as Prime Minister who always put the interests of Israel first. He accused everyone involved in these two cases and the opposition of trying to get rid of him for political purposes. His main Likud whip accused current opposition leader Yair Lapid, when he was Finance Minister in Bibi’s government, of being a “malshin” (a “rat” which according to Halacha carries a death sentence and was the justification that Yigal Amir used when he assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin).
Lapid met at the request of the police for one hour in this year and a half investigation to answer the question about whether Bibi pressured him to act on behalf of Milchin when he was finance minister. Lapid answered honestly.
It remains to be seen what will happen in these two cases, and the Israeli Attorney General, Amichai Mandelblit (from the Likud party and an honest man and public servant) may take months to go over the evidence provided by the police.
Many are saying that if an indictment is brought against the Prime Minister, he should resign immediately. There is precedent in Israel for this so it isn’t out of the realm of possibility. PM Rabin resigned the first time he was Prime Minister in the 1970s when an illegal checking account was discovered in the name of his wife Leah during the time that Rabin served in Washington, D.C. as Israel’s Ambassador to the United States. More recently, former PM Ehud Olmert resigned when he was indicted and later convicted of bribery. He served time in prison for his crime.
Bibi and Trump really are two peas in a pod of narcissistic self-aggrandizement. Each equates himself with the “state” and seems to think that each is above the law and basic ethics.
Like Trump, Bibi is using the cynicism that appeals to his voters who don’t believe in the governmental system as a base upon which to attack the very system that distinguishes Israel as a democracy, the only democracy in the Middle East.
We will have to wait for the independent counsel in the US and the Attorney General in Israel to finish their work and make their determinations. If it is decided that Trump and Netanyahu are culpable and guilty, both should resign their office. Anyone in their respective parties who sides with the guilty party once a determination is made ought to be defeated handily in the next election.
As Trump would say – “Sad!”