Netanyahu the Defendant Serves Notice on His Judges: You’re Next

We’ve already heard distorted, false, unrestrained, hateful speeches from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. We’ve heard them from the podium of his office, from his residence and at political events. On Sunday he gave the most barbed one ever, in the lobby of the Jerusalem District Court, within spitting distance of the judges’ chamber, a moment before his trial began. He did this as if to warn them: After I took care of the police, the prosecution and the attorney general, just know you are next in line.

It has often been said about Netanyahu, “just when you think you’ve seen everything, you've seen nothing yet.” What was different this time was the backdrop he’d organized for himself: Around half the Likud faction, including senior ministers, their mouths blocked by masks – how symbolic – were standing behind the defendant charged with serious crimes as he excoriated the law enforcement system like the most despicable of criminals.

– Bibi’s slash-and-burn strategy puts Israel on trial

Bibi’s slash-and-burn strategy puts Israel on trialHaaretz

Only a week ago, Netanyahu complained that the security arrangements required for him to appear in court would cost taxpayers a fortune. But after he was forced to appear, he made sure that a host of notables came with him, sending the security costs skyrocketing. Even his bureau chief, Asher Hayoun, came, as if he didn’t have anything better to do for the public that pays his salary.

There were those behind him who had been generously rewarded in the division of portfolios, and one who got a hammer to the head but still hasn’t recovered from the obsequiousness virus. Eli Cohen, a refugee from Kulanu, whose receipt of a portfolio shocked many in Likud, was there. The same Cohen who a year ago said that one cannot run a country while under indictment has apparently changed his mind, and by showing up made it clear what price he had to pay for his job.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the first sitting of the new government, Jerusalem, May 24, 2020Ohad Zwigenberg

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And there were a few other MKs who would sell their souls just to be in a photo. One of them, May Golan, had one of her usual inarticulate fits before the microphones. This was the same Golan, a mini-Miri Regev, whom Netanyahu wanted to name to the judicial appointments committee.

Afterward the gang gathered for a group photo in one of the courtrooms. The public security minister and another minister of nothing climbed onto the benches as if they were members of La Familia at Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium. One can assume that some of those in the picture wanted to die, but the pressures exerted on them from the Balfour residence over the weekend wore them down. Others, who weren’t invited, looked on longingly. “Disgraceful,” said one Likud minister, privately.

Knesset speaker Yariv Levin had made sure to castigate the court even before his leader did, and made all of us miss his predecessor, Yuli Edelstein, sooner than we’d thought. Levin, incidentally, didn’t pose for the embarrassing picture because he is a witness for the prosecution, not because he thought there was anything wrong with it.