Is it entirely coincidental that on the same day that Michael Cohen was telling Congress about President Trump’s criminal deeds, Israel’s attorney general was publishing criminal charges against Prime Minister Netanyahu? No one would be, or has been, suggesting any direct connection. By our lights, though, both are symptoms of what we call the American disease — criminalizing policy differences.
We wouldn’t want to suggest that America and Israel are the same. Nor to suggest that selling one’s office, of which Mr. Netanyahu is accused, is not a serious wrong. The state that was declared in 1948, though, is young yet, and our republic is ahead of Israel in discovering the insidiousness of the disease of criminalizing politics. Once it’s started, who — or what — is next?
Not that Mr. Netanyahu is the first premier of the Jewish state to come under criminal investigation. Investigations of Ehud Olmert while he was serving as prime minister forced him to resign (he eventually went to prison). Yitzhak Rabin was forced from office the first time he was premier for maintaining, in violation of regulations, two penny-ante personal bank accounts in Washington.
Yet it’s hard to recall an investigation that so reeks of politics as the one against Mr. Netanyahu. The attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, who was appointed by Mr. Netanyahu, may not be a political foe. He was under political pressure, though, announcing the charges that he did Thursday but weeks before a general election in which his quarry is standing for another term. That took some brass.*
The charges — of bribery and fraud — were mooted while Mr. Netanyahu was meeting at Moscow with his Russ counterpart, Vladimir Putin. For that matter, President Trump was meeting at Hanoi with the North Korean party boss, Kim Jong Un, while Michael Cohen was up on Capitol Hill trying to undermine his presidency. In both cases, the allegations look like gossamer.
And not to only us, who have for decades maintained a skepticism of prosecutions with political motive or impact, on both the left and right. Harvard’s Alan Dershowitz just issued an eloquent open letter warning Israel on this head. Quoth he: “To bring down a duly elected prime minister on the basis of an expansive and unprecedented application of a broad and expandable criminal statute endangers democracy.”
Exactly. The Sun has generally refrained from endorsing in foreign elections. We don’t mind pointing out, though, that one of the things Prime Minister Netanyahu shares with President Trump is that he won his office in an astounding election upset that the Left has been loath to accept. The right thing for both leaders is to figure out what the voters were wanting and to carry it out until someone else wins a mandate at the polls.
* In 1992, but days before our own general election, Independent Prosecutor Lawrence Walsh suggested that President George H.W. Bush, who was standing for re-election, might himself be implicated in the probe. Bush turned around and pardoned most of Walsh’s highest profile targets.