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Moral Turpitude: Who, and What Killed Netanyahu’s Plea Deal?

jewishjournal.com

As I write this column, it seems clear that Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected the plea deal with Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, who’s about to retire at the end of this month. It is also clear that the deal was rejected because of the ‘Moral Turpitude’ clause, which stipulated that Netanyahu was to admit to it, and as a result will resign from his membership in the Knesset, from leading the Likud party, and retire too from the political arena for seven years. But why? It was so close?

Some reporters ‘in the know’ reported that it was ultimately Sara Netanyahu, his wife, who’d put the kibosh on that deal. That Netanyahu had committed a ‘Moral Turpitude’ while in office as Prime Minister for so many years was not in doubt. That’s what surely happens when you accumulate that much power, for so long a time, and begin to see yourself as the incarnation of ‘King David,’ urged on by a conniving wife, and a right-wing extremist son. You are becoming all-powerful, and all-power is essentially corrupt. To admit to ‘Moral Turpitude,’ however, and worse to recuse yourself from political life—while you are still, and by far, the most popular leader in Israel—is another matter altogether.

Let’s remind ourselves briefly what, as indeed I was writing about here a number of times before, Netanyahu is accused of: Fraud, breach of trust and bribery. Not small a change. Which he denies, of course, of ever having or committed. He has accused AG Mendelblit, the Police and prosecutors of corruption and all kind of other accusations. But against all odds and many delays, his trial has commenced and continued unabated. It so happened because in three consecutive elections Netanyahu had failed to form a majority government, and thereafter kill the trial. In the government he was finally able to form, with Blue and White’s Gantz, he was forced to accept that the trial will go on.

Again, as predicted in this blog not once (based on minimal legalistic knowledge), the trial not only materialized but has proved much more problematic, and potentially damaging to Netanyahu than he and his fervent supporters had thought possible. A number of witnesses had produced damaging evidence, causing shaking and headaches for Netanyahu’s defense. So much so that it was Netanyahu himself who began hearing the squeaking iron gates of jail being open, welcoming him in. As a result, he turned to former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak, probably the most respected Judge still in the land, to facilitate the plead deal.

So Barak turned to Mendelblit, who began the process. It was reported also that during that process, he had offered Netanyahu initially only two years’ absence from political life, which was much easier for Netanyahu to accept. However, prosecutors and legal minds involved had raised hell about it. And rightly so. With all due respect to AG Mendelblit and all that he has done to bring the trial forward, it is well worth remembering that he has served in Netanyahu‘s government, and was regarded as a close confidant for a time, if not a friend. So The “Moral Turpitude’ clause became seven years. As you know, seven years is a very symbolic, significant number in the bible and Jewish tradition and history.

For a while, as has been reported in the Israeli media, the odds in favor of such a plea deal becoming a reality were very high. “In a few days.” “Early next week.” So screamed the headlines. And I have to admit that, unlike the plurality of Israelis, as a number of polls have suggested, I felt that I would welcome such a deal. As a staunch objector to Netanyahu and all that he has represented, from instigating Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, squashing any chances of the two-state solution from becoming a reality, the continuation of the settlement endeavor, and his bro hugging of the pitiful, despotic Trump, I still saw his potential removal from Israel’s political life as more important than seeing him go to jail.

Furthermore: The government just approved an inquiry into Germany’s ‘Submarine Affair,’ in which Netanyahu can be in real ‘troubled water.’ It might generate more opportunities to put him behind closed bars. There are of course Netanyahu’s supporters, and some legal minds, who don’t see it this way, and believe the prosecution is on shaky ground. Come what may, the possibility of Netanyahu going to jail certainly exists. He knows that. But he also knows that unlike other cases in recent Israeli history—President Katsav, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert—if he is convicted and about to be locked up, it will create havoc. His supporters will raise hell, and the possibility of blood in the streets, a semi civil-war, is likely. Which, I believe, Netanyahu would welcome, both personally and politically.

And so, what killed the deal at the end was indeed the ‘Moral Turpitude’ clause, and not his wife’s orders, even if that was part of it.  Specifically, the retirement from political life for seven years, and not so much the partial admittance of guilt on his part. Like his American bro, Trump—who can also hear the gates of the legal system finally beginning to close on him—the one thing he couldn’t stand was the loss of power. Dictators need the power to sustain their wellbeing. Crimes are no big deal for them; they commit them all the time. Being out of power, however, is akin to death.

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It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times

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“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

Mind-blowing, isn’t it, this opening paragraph (one sentence, really) from Charles Dickens ‘A Tale of Two Cities’? Reading it always gives me chills.  How prophetic of him, writing it in 1859 about the years leading up to the French revolution? But that’s the mark of a great writer, a visionary, and great literature too, to transcend times and many generations, and still be so truthful. About our age, too, it is true. About the last year in particular.

So let’s see where we’ve been, and what we’ve experienced in 2021 as it ends with a blast of cold air and a new tsunami wave of a coronavirus variant. It has started, indeed, with a shocking wave of a different kind, manmade: The January 6th insurrection, when a mob of Trump supporters, urged on and inspired by him and his cronies, stormed Capitol Hill and almost succeeded in overturning the results of our democratic, fair election and the certification of a new president. This assault on our democracy, this coup d’état was long in the making and almost successful. Don’t delude yourself that it’s over, because—should we not be on our guard—we won’t be so lucky next time.

This event, in the national political arena, overshadowed everything else this year, and still vibrates in the streets and in the halls of power. If not for the coronavirus pandemic—I cannot get rid of this thought, disturbing as it is to even contemplate—if not for the “China Virus” as he’d used to call it, we never would have gotten rid of Trump and his autocratic regime. Sad but true: if not for the many deaths and sick, we now would have a dictator in the White House, and autocracy in the vein of China and Russia here in America. The war is not over to be sure, but one battle we have somehow won. We better learn the lesson.

Meanwhile in Israel, a similar—if better and not so dramatic—outcome has occurred. Another potential dictator, Bibi Netanyahu, was kicked out of office. It was indeed a miracle of sorts that the preceding two-week flareup, the semi-war with Hamas in Gaza in May has brought some political opponents to their senses, and pushed them in a new direction. Foes and friends united—including, a first, an Arab party—to form the narrowest of coalitions, culminating in the successful formation of a new government, pushing Netanyahu to the sideline. To boot, he is also being prosecuted now in a court of law. But as in America so in Israel, it is not over yet, and all polls indicate he is still, by far, the most popular leader in Israel. That he might stage a comeback, like Trump, is entirely within the realm of possibility.

But above all—as in 2020—everything was eclipsed by the pandemic. In June of this year I went on a first date after a long time, and sat in an ice cream parlor with my young date maskless, enjoying the sun, the cold treat, and talking freely to each other. A month later I was up on the hills above Reno with my son on a fabulous vacation after two years of not seeing each other. At the end of October we were celebrating my birthday in Monterey Bay, and had a great time watching whales in the Pacific Ocean. Shortly thereafter I celebrated with some dear friends the Thanksgiving holiday with good food, wine, and fine comradeship. Likewise in Chanukah. We thought we are finally emerging out of the dark into the light.

“It was the season of Light,” as Dickens wrote, but now it is again the “season of Darkness.” It does look very bleak as I write this, as if we are back at square one. In the news on Monday morning it was said that Israel has added America to its no-fly list, both incoming and outgoing flights, as it already did with some European and African countries. Last evening I rescued out of my cupboard a new N95 mask I kept there for an emergency—using other, lighter and easier-to-wear masks in the meantime—for going grocery shopping. Last Saturday evening I was all geared up for a new episode of SNL. Guess what: my favorite TV program was back improvising, without an audience and hardly any cast members. British soccer Primer League matches are being canceled left and right, and so are NBA, NFL, and NHL games, as the various leagues are struggling to continue as scheduled.

So many other things/events, good and bad have occurred this year, but I’m going to stop right here and now. You know the rest. Let’s remember the good times. Stay healthy, my friends, and don’t let your guard down. May the next year be happy and joyous, mostly, for you and yours!

* The ‘Leave a Comment’ link is the last tag below, in blue.

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