Thursday, June 2

Israel’s Democracy threatened by Disturbing Trends

Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,
 alongside attorney Yossi Cohen
 at the Jerusalem Regional Labor Court on October 29, 2015
 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Over the last few weeks we have been witnessing a trend in Israel that is eroding democracy. A strong democracy is also dependent on a strong opposition with well defined objectives and principles that can be considered as an alternative to the ruling government. This does not mean populism. Populism is very often devoid of reality and as such misleads the electorate. An opposition that relies on populism will never be able to achieve its aims when elected. Within a short time disillusionment sets in and the principles on which the new government is elected are scuttled to the four winds.

Israel appears to be reaching the crossroads in its so-called viable democracy. The Israeli electorate is showing signs of apathy as the ruling government headed by PM Benjamin Netanyahu are not doing what it had promised to the citizens of Israel. PM Netanyahu was insured of victory after every election since 2009. The reason, in view of most of Israel’s citizens, is that there is no alternative leader that is capable of being elected to tackle the gargantuan tasks that face Israel every day.

This is dangerous for Israel’s democracy from every aspect. There should be a law that limits the prime minister from serving more than two terms in the Knesset. We are now witnessing the antics of a desperate prime minister that has served too long in the Knesset. It is as if the State of Israel is his property and that he and his wife appear to be above the law. This is a very dangerous threat to democracy. It is conducive to its erosion.  

The State Comptroller’s Annual Report on irregularities in the funding of the prime minister’s travel expenses, the running of the Netanyahu household, including the role of Sara Netanyahu’s handling of those employed in the prime minister’s residence is under fire. There are plaintiffs who have sued Sarah Netanyahu on exploitation and ill treatment over the years under her employ. There were recent court cases, whereby some of the plaintiffs had won their cases as the judges had ruled in their favor:
2.    The Guy Eliyahu Case   The judgment by the Jerusalem District Labor Court breaks down into NIS 65,000 for emotional abuse, NIS 7,500 reimbursements for legal costs and NIS 25,000 for violating laws protecting employees from working beyond certain hours. Note that in this case the family lawyer,Jossi Cohen representing Sara Netanyahu, rejects the decision by the Jerusalem District Labor Court awarding Guy Eliyahu, a former employee of Prime Minister’s official residence, NIS 120,000 ($31,000) in damages for abuse at the hands of the prime minister’s wife. “The real abusive treatment is that of Judge Proginin, who, as expected, again blatantly ignored the testimony of Mrs. Netanyahu,” Cohen says following the court decision.
“The court case has been handled in a one-sided manner and Mrs. Netanyahu was not allowed to bring witnesses that would have discredited the false and deceitful claims of Guy Eliyahu. We intend to appeal this biased and unjust decision,” Jossi Cohen adds. The family lawyer made disparaging comments about a judge that passed a ruling against his client, Sarah Netanyahu, stands a strong chance of disciplinary action against him. This is unethical and against the law.
Meanwhile the cases and complaints of former workers against Sarah Netanyahu are reported in the press almost non-stop. The details that have been published about Sarah Netanyahu’s behavior over the years do not do her much credit. It is behavior that is not appropriate for a prime minister’s wife, who believes that her subordinates are expendable and she can do as she wishes. The various reports that come to light should be a warning to the electorate that the time is fast approaching for them to change their choice of prime minister and his political party to get out of the corridors of power. We are all aware of the old saying that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts completely. Are we approaching that in Israel’s democracy?
PM “Bibi” Netanyahu is a wily politician, who loves the lavish lifestyle that seems to be bestowed upon him by funding from various sources with questionable legality. Sarah Netanyahu seems to have adjusted very well to the “riches of Croesus” and behaves like the wife of a despotic dictator.
Another threat to democracy and with it accountability is the desire to curtail the State Comptroller’s authority. Days after the state comptroller released a critical report of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s actions, Knesset House Committee Chairperson David Bitan—also from Netanyahu’s party—submitted a bill seeking to curtail the state comptroller’s authority. If he succeeds in having this bill passed it will be another nail in the future of democracy in Israel.
Where is the main opposition party – the Zionist Union? It should be involved in stopping this erosion in accountability. Instead they seem to be swallowing the toad of Avigdor Lieberman being appointed Defense Minister and seeking a loophole whereby at the end of the day they will find an excuse to join the right wing coalition of PM Netanyahu despite Yitzhak Herzog’s plupperings to the contrary.

Now that the right wing has increased its strength in the government with the inclusion of the radical right wing party of Avigdor Lieberman, less tolerance for political opponents on the left is on the horizon.

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