Netanyahu Shows Us Why Indicting a Leader Is Bad for Our Democracy
Published in The Washington Post
on November 22, 2019
Some people have wondered during this impeachment controversy if the United States might be better off if presidents could be indicted. The indictment of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday provides a good example of why our democracy is better off as it is.
Netanyahu is as controversial in Israel as President Trump is in the United States. Netanyahu is beloved by the right and despised by the left. The left accuses him of inciting racism when he accuses Arab members of the Knesset of being allies of terrorists and when he rallies with supporters during elections through fear of a large Arab voter turnout. The right believes he is courageous and stands up for the silent majority of Israelis, and religious Jews trust him to stand up to a secular, urban elite whom they believe are against them. Sound familiar?
Netanyahu’s indictment on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust poses similar political challenges to Israel as Trump’s impeachment does here. Just as here, Netanyahu’s voter base largely continues to back him, with many viewing the indictment as simply an attempt from elites to beat Netanyahu on their turf when they haven’t been able to beat him at the ballot box. It is unclear whether he will resign or step aside temporarily as prime minister while he fights the charges. With Israel politically deadlocked and unable to form a new government after two elections already this year, it’s possible he might even lead his Likud party’s ticket in an unprecedented third election within a year if a government is not formed.
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Henry Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.