Netanyahu’s Pitiful Desperation Conjures Devastating 1999 Election Defeat

Benjamin Netanyahu’s formal request for immunity is a headfirst dive into deep state paranoia. Netanyahu’s application, signed by his lawyers, accuses the Israeli justice system, headed by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, his former aide and current appointee, of trying to frame him. It alleges a deep political bent in Israel’s public prosecution. It accuses legal authorities, essentially, of carrying out an attempted putsch.

Netanyahu’s petition is a Trumpian insurrection against established norms as well as a battle cry for a vox populi to rescue him from the guardians of the rule of law. It is a daunting demand, with potentially far-reaching ramifications.

After months of avoiding and denying, Netanyahu is deeming himself unequal before the law in order to place himself above it. The chances of the Knesset granting his request are virtually nil, after Avigdor Lieberman signaled his total opposition, but whether it is denied forthwith, as the opposition demands, or postponed until a new Knesset is constituted, as he seeks, Netanyahu has placed his legal proceedings at the heart of the upcoming election campaign.

Netanyahu’s request, along with his Wednesday night speech heralding its presentation, enraged his critics and embarrassed many of his party colleagues. It marked an abrupt about-face from Netanyahu’s previous assertions that the facts will speak for themselves, the charges against him will amount to nothing and, therefore, he has no intention of seeking immunity. The inclusion of Netanyahu’s crackpot conspiracy theories in a formal legal document was even more jarring: Whether a product of deceit or delusion, it injected an element of derangement into the hitherto rational arena of the law.

Thursday’s High Court of Justice dismissal of petitions that sought to bar Netanyahu’s reelection because of his indictments ensures that his persona and potential prosecution will dominate the upcoming election campaign. If the past year’s two previous elections were deemed a personal referendum on Netanyahu, the third will feature an added complexity introduced by his indictments: It will pit Netanyahu and his immunity against his opposition and the rule of law.

In one of their more fanciful statements, which eerily echoed Trump’s claims to have won the popular vote in 2016 and to have been elected by the greatest Electoral College margin in history, Netanyahu’s lawyers asserted that in the previous two elections “Netanyahu received a tremendous mandate from the people.” His mandate, however, wasn’t “tremendous” enough to allow Netanyahu to form a government, and if the March 2 ballot delivers similar results, his fate will be placed in the hands of President Reuven Rivlin.

Benjamin Netanyahu in 1999.Alon Ron

You can rest assured that the campaign to deter Rivlin from refusing to appoint Netanyahu to form a government by proving his long-held animus and leftist-inspired bias is already in the planning stages. It will mark the next to last stage of Netanyahu’s efforts to undermine his investigation and prosecution, which started with bent police investigators, continued to biased prosecutors, is now focused on a weak attorney general who rushed to judgment, will proceed to Rivlin, if the need arises, and will culminate in district court judges – who are obviously part of the plot, should they reject the prime minister’s claims of innocence.