The First-Ever Trial of an Israeli Prime Minister Is Also a Trial of the Country’s Judicial System

May 27, 2020 | Shmuel Rosner
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Sunday was the first day of Benjamin Netanyahu’s long-awaited trial on three corruption-related charges. At issue, writes Shmuel Rosner, are not so much the facts of the case but the legality of Netanyahu’s actions. For his own part, Netanyahu has accused the Israeli justice system itself overstepping its bounds, and many Israelis support such a claim, as Rosner writes:

[A] significant portion of the Israeli public does not consider the proceedings that began today as Netanyahu’s trial. They consider them as the trial of the legal system. The charges: megalomania, overstepping authority, excessive use of legal force, pushing an ideological agenda. In fact—and there is a vast pool of evidence to prove it—what the public thinks about Netanyahu’s trial is generally analogous to what the public thinks about the legal system. Those who believe that it is a thorough, honest, and trustworthy system tend to accept the need for Netanyahu to be prosecuted. Those who doubt the legal system’s motivation and professionalism tend to oppose Netanyahu’s prosecution.

It is a sad day to see the prime minister standing trial. It is a reassuring day to see that even a prime minister must face the court. It is a fascinating day, in which the best and the brightest face each other for a high-noon battle. And yes, it is also a scary day, in which mighty forces clash and we, the witnesses, should beware of the fallout.

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