LET’S make one thing clear from the outset. Benjamin Netanyahu is innocent until proven guilty. Let’s make another thing clear. When it comes to Israel’s security, he certainly talks the talk, and more often than not, he walks the walk. His championing of Israel’s right to exist and defend itself is front and centre.
And while there is no doubt that many both within and outside our community consider him a contentious, controversial and divisive figure, there is no question that he strides the international stage with a confidence – and receiving a reception – that would be the envy of leaders across the globe.
And yet …
Over the course of his premiership, a frequent refrain from his critics is that if there is one thing Benjamin Netanyahu prizes ahead of the welfare of his country, it is being “King Bibi”.
Whether it is abandoning commitments, forging unsavoury alliances, demonising opponents or wooing extremists, he will do whatever it takes, they say, to maintain his grip on power.
Little wonder then, that for many voters and politicians the recent Israeli elections and their aftermath have been not so much about policies, principles and parties, as simply getting a government that doesn’t have Bibi at its helm.
And now …
Benjamin Netanyahu has been indicted on criminal charges, accused of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
Under Israeli law, any other public official, cabinet ministers included, would be required to resign. But with the legislation not explicitly stating the same is required of a prime minister, Netanyahu is refusing to stand aside.
Even though … even though … when Ehud Olmert was mired in corruption allegations as PM 11 years ago, none other than Benjamin Netanyahu himself called for Olmert to step down, insisting, “A prime minister neck deep in investigations does not have a moral and public mandate to make fateful decisions for the State of Israel.
“There is a fear, I must say, and it is real and not unfounded, that he will make his decisions for his personal interest of political survival, not for the national interest.”
In short, Bibi, according to Bibi, should step aside while he fights to clear his name.
For the good of the State of Israel, we urge him to take his own advice.
Zeddy Lawrence is national editor of The Australian Jewish News.