The Netanyahu charges – character, hypocrisy and a million paper-cuts
Israel’s Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit has just announced his intention to indict Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu on three charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. His intention to indict kicks off a process which could last for years in the courts. Mandelblit’s announcement is not a declaration that Netanyahu is guilty, though Bibi’s enemies at the Israeli newspaper Yediot Achronot (‘Latest News’) crowed with satisfaction in screaming headlines with extra-large fonts declaring ‘Ne’esham’ (which can mean ‘accused,’ ‘charged’ or ‘defendant’ in Hebrew).
According to Israeli law, anyone accused in a court of law is innocent until proven guilty. However, the overwhelming majority of Israel’s media (which has attacked and castigated Bibi and his family for over two decades) assumes as a given that Netanyahu is already guilty. For them, any trial would only be window dressing on a foregone conclusion.
Mandelblit’s announcement of intent to indict is only a first step in a drawn-out legal procedure.No actual indictment can happen until after the April 9, 2019 Israeli elections. After the elections (according to Israeli law) Bibi’s lawyers will ask for and receive a hearing to respond to the Attorney General’s charges, where they will present Netanyahu’s perspectives and counter-challenges. After that point (which could take up to one full year), the Attorney General may decide drop charges, modify them or formally file an indictment.
In light of all this,
- what can be said and understood here from both an on-site and a biblical perspective?
- what are the ramifications of this announcement of an intention to indict?
- how can we pray about this situation?
Where’s the beef?
In 1984 the hamburger chain Wendy’s presented a TV ad using a crotchety older woman who constantly asked, “Where’s the beef?” During the Democratic Party’s presidential candidates’ debate of that year, Walter Mondale drilled Gary Hart with the same question. The point behind both soundbites was to question whether or not an event or a person’s agenda has substance.
World-respected and prominent lawyer Alan Dershowitz (Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus at Harvard University) has stated recently that there is no legal substance to the charges against Netanyahu. He “strongly believes that the appropriate criteria for criminal prosecution have not been met” in these cases, and that the “clear and unambiguous (evidence of) financial corruption” needed for solid conviction here is “well beyond what is alleged in the current cases.”
His arguments and those of other legal minds can be found in the above articles. If Dershowitz’s statement is valid (that there is not sufficient legal evidence to attempt a conviction), why then is the Attorney General moving forward with this very damaging gambit only 40 days before Israel’s next general elections?
Clash of the titans
Power politics is a way of life in most countries of the world, and certainly in Israel. Powerful businessmen attempt to influence political decisions in ways which will be advantageous to their own economic interests. In Israel each major political party is financed and influenced by specific tycoons (www.haaretz.com/israel-news/business/which-tycoon-to-vote-for-in-the-election-1.6955379):
Property developer Alfred Akirov supports Benny Gantz and his Israel Resilience Party (Hosen L’Yisrael, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel_Resilience_Party). In the past he was a main contributor to Prime Ministers Shimon Peres and Ehud Olmert.
Histadrut Chairman Avi Nissenkorn and his government monopolies (Israel Electric Corporation, the Ports Authority, the Israel Airports Authority and other powerful unions, all organized under the Histadrut Labor Federation) also support Gantz.
Koby Maimon (natural gas and real estate magnate) backs Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and his Kulanu party.
Business magnate Arnon Mozes backs Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid who worked for years as a journalist at Mozes’ Yediot Achronot. Mozes controls Israel’s biggest media conglomerate Yediot Tikshoret; Channel 2, one of the top TV channels; HOT Cable TV company (second largest); Vesti, Israel’s largest Russian-language daily; La’Isha, the Israeli women’s magazine; Rosh 1, a teenager weekly; the Internet portal Ynet; the men’s magazine Blazer; print houses; voice data providers, music distributors, information services and a plethora of real estate properties.
The Labor Party is headed by Avi Gabbay and seconded by Knesset Member Itzik Shmueli. Nochi Dankner the former Chairman of Israel’s biggest conglomerate IDB has contributed handsomely to Shmueli, as has Arnon Mozes.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud Party are heavily supported by casino baronSheldon Adelson, owner of the freely distributed newspaper Israel Hayom (in active competition with Mozes’ Yediot Achronot).
Adelson is also a major supporter of Naftali Bennett and his Hayamin Hehadash (New Right) party (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Right_(Israel)).
Most of Israel’s political maneuverings, machinations and headlines reflect the jockeying between these ‘Power Rangers.’ Charges and counter-charges against top politicians continue to be the daily bread of Israeli media for the past 20 years, with much of the bile directed against Netanyahu and the Likud Party – who nevertheless seem to continually win in election after election.
- Two of the three main charges against Bibi concern clashes between him and some of the above-mentioned power magnates. The technicalities of the legal charges are to a large extent wallpaper covering other deeper holes and struggles.
Dershowitz notes in the above-mentioned article that “these media companies will seek to influence the political discourse that affects their bottom line, as they simultaneously report on it.”
The Hypocritical oath
Professor Avi Bell (Professor of Law at Bar Ilan University and the University of San Diego, Senior Fellow at the Kohelet Policy Forum, and Visiting Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Project on the Foundations of Private Law) comments concerning one of the bribery charges – Hollywood magnate Arnon Milchan’s personal gifts of champagne and cigars to Bibi and his wife Sara.
Bell points out that Milchan is on public record as having expressed similar friendship and largesse to Prime Ministers Ehud Olmert, Ariel Sharon and Shimon Peres, as well as to Deputy Prime Ministers Tzipi Livni and Silvan Shalom, Defense and Foreign Affairs Minister Avigdor Liberman, Finance Minister Yair Lapid etc. Yet no charges on these matters have been or will be filed against Lapid, Livni, Olmert, Peres, Shalom or Sharon.
The laser-like focus on bringing down Netanyahu by any means necessary has been the agenda of much of the media (and the power brokers behind them) for decades.
Years ago, just before Ariel Sharon’s pullout from Gaza (the ‘disengagement’ of 2005), one top Israeli commentator Amnon Abramovich called on his colleagues to go easy on Sharon over possible involvement in a questionable Greek land deal – to treat Sharon “like an etrog” – i.e., to treat him ‘with kid gloves’ – so long as Sharon withdrew unilaterally from the Gaza Strip. The left-leaning media in Israel has treated Bibi in the exactly opposite way.
Judicial overreach and black-robe fever
Dershowitz has noted, “No one should be charged with a crime unless he has willfully crossed a bright line and plainly violated a serious criminal statute. 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.”
Bell notes that Mandelblit has moved beyond issues of evidence to the probing of the motives of the accused: “The danger in the novel legal theories introduced by Mandelblit is stark. The criminal charges against the prime minister lack legal substance, and they threaten both the rule of law in Israel and the health of its democracy… Mandelblit’s announcement heralds a crisis for Israel’s democracy and the public image of its legal system.”
The challenges in this case bear some resemblance to U.S. constitutional issues today. Should the U.S. Constitution be interpreted in light of what the Constitutional Fathers intended the Constitution to mean, or should the Constitution be re-interpreted anew in every generation, even if that does violence to the Constitution’s original meaning and authorial intent.
A lawyer friend of mine once explained a legal concept known as ‘black robe fever’ – sometimes a judge, after putting on his black robe, begins to think that he is God, “able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
The present charges against Netanyahu shy away from solid and actionable evidence which is necessary for the case to stand up in court. They focus instead on psychological motives. This is seen by a significant amount of Israelis as a politically motivated partisan vendetta. The Attorney General’s actions have the potential to alienate many Israelis’ trust in their own legal system. They also throw a significant curve at the electorate and at the ruling Likud party immediately preceding a significant Israeli election. Mandelblit’s decision has oversized power to shape the election’s result. His move has the potential to move Israel’s judiciary away from its traditionally understood role into greater authority over the legislative and executive branches of government, simultaneously weakening the democratic power of the state.
Character and kings
Regardless of the outcome of the elections, the judicial hearing and any subsequent legal developments, the Scriptures give us some meat to chew on about such matters.
Solomon warns us all in Proverbs: “When you sit down to dine with a ruler, consider carefully what is before you and put a knife to your throat if you are a man of great appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, for it is deceptive food” (Proverbs 23:1-3). All of us need to rein in our appetites, especially around people who would manipulate us for their own gain. Wisdom exhorts us to be extra careful in the face of such temptations.
Proverbs also cautions us about the cost of accepting generous gifts when there might be strings attached: “Do not eat the bread of a selfish man or desire his delicacies. For as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, ‘Eat and drink!’ but his heart is not with you. You will vomit up the morsel you have eaten, and waste your compliments” (Proverbs 23:6-8). Kings and rulers would do well to follow the advice of the wisest king who ever lived.
How should we then pray?
- Pray for Prime Minister Netanyahu to receive God’s heart and perspective about his present situation and his spiritual state
- Pray for God’s justice, righteousness and balance to be done regarding these issues
- Pray for the foiling of wicked machinations on the part of ungodly businessmen
- Pray for God to establish leadership in Israel after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Jeremiah 3:15)
This article originally appeared on David’s Tent, March 2, 2019, and reposted with permission.
Avner and his wife, Rachel, live in the Beersheva region of Israel and are dedicated to stirring up the creative arts, worship, intercession, evangelism and the prophetic gifts within a Jewish and Israeli matrix. They oversee Final Frontier Ministries.
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[Israel 101] US embassy in Israel closes Palestinian affairs unit
Is the closing of the Palestinian affairs unit in the U.S. embassy really the “final nail in the coffin” for US peacemaking efforts as stated by Palestinian official Saeb Erekat? Or is it an attempt at trying to combine diplomatic efforts into a more efficient operation?
It probably depends on your personally invested opinion concerning the motives of the U.S. embassy and American policy towards Palestinians.
The U.S. State Department spokesman, Robert Palladino claims that the “decision was driven by their global efforts to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their diplomatic engagements and operations and does not signal a change in U.S. policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank or the Gaza Strip” while some Palestinians see the move as a “downgrading” of the way their diplomatic concerns are considered. In fact, for them, it is tantamount to a death knell towards the goal of a two-state solution.
But the merger of the U.S. Jerusalem consulate and embassy into one diplomatic entity will result in issues emanating from Gaza and the West Bank falling into the jurisdiction of U.S. Ambassador David Friedman who is seen as being a long-time supporter of Judea and Samarian settlers. Friedman has also been a vocal, harsh critic of the Palestinian leadership.
However, it should be noted that since there is no formal recognition of Palestine as an independent, self-governing country, there, then, has never been a separate formal Palestinian embassy. Its matters and concerns were always handled by a separate Palestinian affairs unit which was part of the U.S. embassy, and so it’s possible to look at this new outrage as much ado about nothing.
In fact, President Trump has stated that “the U.S. continues to take no position on final status issues, including borders or boundaries and that the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem are subject to final status negotiations between the parties” while assuring both sides that “his administration remains fully committed to efforts to achieve a lasting and comprehensive peace that offers a brighter future to Israel and the Palestinians.”
What is clear is that this new move is seen as yet another deligitimization of Palestinian rights and jurisdiction following last year’s U.S. decision to move their embassy to Jerusalem, thereby formally recognizing Israel’s capital, something which no previous American president ever dared to do. First the embassy move and then the merging of the Palestinian affairs unit – both seen as a propping up of Israel’s sovereignty and dominance – has likely caused Palestinian leaders to feel that this is a subtle but pointed way of endorsing their long-term ally who shares their democratic style of governing.
In truth, the Trump administration has continually cited the failure of Palestinian leaders to forge serious peace talks or make any compromises. Consequently, significant sums of American dollars have been cut, stopping the flow of assistance to Palestinian programs. Needless to say, American/Palestinian relations are very strained, but when met with an unyielding desire to make any concessions or find any middle ground, the consequences are going to be felt one way or another, and so it’s entirely possible that “the desire to work more effectively and efficiently” is yet another way to send a strong message to Palestinians that until they’re ready to come to the table with more flexibility, Israel will continue to be supported and sustained by the U.S. government who sees them as the right horse to back.
Chava Stein, the granddaughter of Jewish European immigrants to the U.S., made Aliyah to Israel in 1993. Married to an Israeli, they live in the center of the country.
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Towards unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace
I returned home on Friday night from one week in Kenya. I was invited to be part of a small team for a diplomatic mission, speaking with church leaders about reconciliation of Gentile Christians — and church “positions” — with Jewish believers in Jesus/Yeshua, with a conference being planned in two years. For my part, my Jewish identity is not conflicted with my faith in Jesus and being also identified as a Christian, along with other believers and followers of the Messiah. But this is also something that might not necessarily have been so just a couple of hundred years ago, and even lingering until today in many quarters.
The return of the Jewish people in the latter days back to the Land of Israel promised by YHVH to the descendants of Jacob has restored and revived the truth that God is not finished with “Jewish” or with Israel, the natural and physical people and land which so much of the Bible centers on. God’s plan of redemption through Jesus Christ comes through the Jews and looks to the day of the Lord’s return to rule and to reign from Jerusalem in Israel. For those whose world-view dismisses the future and hope of the Jewish people and Israel, Jewish identity and Israel’s existence pose both a challenge and a threat.
Beginning already in the New Testament gospel accounts, we read that there were many Jews who believed in Yeshua but were afraid to say so, for fear of being put out of the synagogue — of being excommunicated. It did not matter how many traditions and commandments they might observe and keep, faith in Yeshua as Messiah and Lord — as the Son of God — rendered them “not kosher”, not acceptable. My religious and political leaders cast Yeshua outside the camp, and that is where we who believe in Him are called to be as well. When the Gentile believers began to far outnumber the Jewish believers (which did not take that long, being that there are far more Gentiles in the world than Jews), their thinking and attitude became skewed into a “doctrine” that the Jews were finished as a people loved by God, despite their rejection of Jesus. God had no more need or use for His Chosen People: their calling was completed when we rejected and crucified the Lord, even though Yeshua asked the Father to forgive all of those involved who did not know what they were really doing, and to Whom.
In Acts 15 we read the historical account of a watershed moment in “Church history”, when the authorized Apostles grappled with the question of whether Gentile believers needed to ‘become Jewish’ in order to be saved and be true believers. The answer was an emphatic “No!”, except for four restrictions which the Holy Spirit gave the Jewish apostles to place upon the new converts, in order to enable some common ground of fellowship and of worship of the one true God. When the church ‘fathers’ began to hold their own councils to deal with establishing some doctrinal orthodoxy for the new life in Christ, they began to also grapple with the question of the Jews, who would not disappear and go away. In 787 AD, at the Second Nicaean Council, the Gentile church leaders asked whether Jewish believers needed to become Gentiles in order to be saved and true followers of Jesus, and they said, “Yes!”. Jewish Christians needed to forget the Jewish part of their identity, and just become a good, for example, Spanish Christian, or a good American Christian, or a good Kenyan Christian, wherever the Jewish persons may be living. The Gentiles could retain their identity, but not the Jews.
God is restoring Jewish identity among believers in Jesus/Yeshua; and, yes, just like many Gentile Christians who retain or take on too much of their own culture and peculiar traditions of their church or spiritual stream into their brand of Christianity, so, too, do some Jews (and, even some Gentile believers who love the God of Israel and His people) take on too much of Judaism and their country’s culture into the faith which calls upon all believers to grapple with the gospel truth that we are all a new creation in Messiah/Christ when we are born-again by the Holy Spirit from Above, and are one new man in Christ/Messiah. There are both Jewish and Gentile aspects which can enrich the Body of Messiah, yet the gospel is neither Jewish nor Gentile.
The Holy Spirit is moving and working throughout the Body in the world across every denomination and ‘non-denomination’ to bring unity — which is forever inherent in YHVH God — among believers wherever and whatever we may be identified. This is towards fulfilling the prayer of the Lord for the divine unity which is His with the Father, and that is to be all of ours with each other and with Him. No one can manufacture this; it is truly a God-thing! It will only be fully realized in the resurrection life, yet however much can be manifested here before then the Holy Spirit will surely do in all those who are the Lord’s.
For me it is not institutional reconciliation, but acceptance and reconciliation — with confession, repentance, and forgiveness having their necessary part for excluding those who do not meet our own or our denominations’ qualifications — with any and all individuals whom the Lord accepts, including me. Praise God! There is still a hope and a future for the Jewish people and for Israel as a nation. The blessing to all the world depends on God’s fulfilling all His covenant promises to Israel, and the sacrificial death and the resurrection of Jesus confirms them. We who know and love our Father and Yeshua are called to share and to preach this good news, and to help one another be reconciled to God. “…Pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart….”
This article originally appeared on Streams in the Negev, March 4, 2019, and reposted with permission.
Howard Bass is the congregation pastor/leader of Nachalat Yeshua (Yeshua's Inheritance) in Beer Sheva, Israel.
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Israel’s unsolved rift
What was the source of the heated argument among the National Council on the morning of May 14th, 1948, just hours before the declaration of the state of Israel?The name of the state and the final wording of the declaration had been agreed upon, but the inclusion of a reference to God in the text was the last obstacle for the committee.
Ben-Gurion felt that in the final sentence of the declaration the phrase, ‘With trust in the Rock of Israel (צור ישראל), we set our hands in witness to this Proclamation…’ would satisfy both religious and secular Jews.
The spokesman for the religious parties, Rabbi Fishman-Maimon threatened to not sign the declaration unless the words, ‘and its Redeemer’ were to follow the ‘Rock of Israel.’ Aaron Zisling of the left wing of the Labor Party was equally determined in the opposite direction. He said, “I cannot sign a document referring in any way to a God in whom I do not believe.”
It took Ben-Gurion most of that morning to convince both sides that the ‘Rock of Israel’ could been taken as ‘God,’ or it could be interpreted in a symbolic way to refer to the ‘strength of the Jewish people.’ In the end the Rabbi Fishman-Maimon consented and ‘the Rock of Israel’ was kept without “and its Redeemer.”
This rift between religious and secular Jews has continued to this day, and probably is the greatest source of division among the Jewish people. This subject is a sore spot in Israeli politics, and it seems each Prime Minister acts like a pin-ball, bouncing from side to side trying to appease everyone, but never fully succeeding.
Unfortunately, such serious divisions/rifts are nothing new among the Jewish people-just think back to the time of the split kingdom after Solomon, or the severe divisions that existed among the Jewish sects during the time of Jesus and his disciples—Sadducees, Pharisees, Zealots, Essenes, etc.
After the splitting of Israel and Judah in the time of King Solomon, Israel had 19 consecutive bad kings who did not please God and they were eventually sent into exile. Judah on the other hand had 9 good kings who sought to please God and 11 bad kings, but they also were taken into captivity.
On a number of occasions, righteous Judah fought against wicked Israel – their own brothers – as a form of God’s punishment (I Kings 15:9-16). There were also times when they made alliances, but they usually didn’t end well due to corruption and compromise.
Right before Judah was taken captive by the Assyrians, God spoke through Ezekiel the prophet saying He would one day join Judah and Israel, and they would be one in His hand (Ez 37:15-28). The context of this joining includes God gathering the Jewish people into their own land, cleansing them of their sin and setting one King over them forever. Of course, this has yet to happen.
Recently, in prayer, I’ve sensed the heart of the Father longing to unite His sons again. This also includes all of Abrahams sons of faith, Jews and Gentiles who have put their trust in Yeshua as King and Messiah. A unified people or nation is unstoppable (Gen 11:5-6). Imagine what God would do through a unified righteous people from every tribe and tongue. We live in a day where this joining together is under much attack, and the call to pray for this unity is urgent.
Let us continue praying for Israel’s division to be healed through union with their Messiah. And let’s keep agreeing and cooperating with Yeshua’s prayer in John 17 for oneness in His global body, and not stop until He gets what He has desired and asked for!
This article originally appeared on Revive Israel, February 20, 2019, and reposted with permission.
Cody served on staff with YWAM for four years before moving to Israel. He joined Revive Israel's staff in 2013. He and his wife, Liat, help lead the youth group at Ahavat Yeshua Congregation and work together in Revive Israel’s international department. They have a passion to see the word of the Lord go out from Jerusalem through media and by going out to the nations themselves.
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Resting from the daily grind
PARASHAT VAYAKHEL (AND HE ASSEMBLED)
SHEMOT (EXODUS) 35:1–38:20
I marvel at God’s Word and the amazing wisdom and insight that it contains! In it, we find instructions that are relevant until today, and that enrich our lives when applied. Before I continue sharing a couple of thoughts from this week’s Scripture portion, it is important for me to emphasize that I am sharing my own personal convictions from God’s Word, and am in no way passing judgment on anyone who disagrees with me.
In this week’s Scripture portion, the command to keep the Sabbath is found right in the first verse. This is actually a repetition of the same command found four chapters earlier in Chapter 31, verses 12–17. When God repeats something more than once, it’s a pretty clear indicator that it’s important:
Then Moses assembled all the congregation of the sons of Israel, and said to them, “These are the things that the LORD has commanded you to do. For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a holy day, a Sabbath of complete rest to the LORD; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. You shall not kindle a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day.”
In Exodus 31, the command to observe the Sabbath comes in the middle of God giving Moses instructions for how the children of Israel are to prepare His dwelling place, the Tabernacle. The entire Tabernacle was centered around God, His precise instructions, and His holiness. But the building of God’s dwelling place on earth also contained a provision for God to commune with the children of Israel! In the midst of all the instructions, we find that God instructed Israel to stop all of their work on the seventh day — the Sabbath — and to make the Sabbath day a holy day, a day that was set apart from the other days of the week.
What does this have to do with God communing with His people? Well, the Sabbath day was also a sign of a special relationship between God and the people of Israel (Exodus 31:13). I believe that the Sabbath is itself evidence that God created us for relationship. God stopped and rested from creating after He created man so that He could spend time with him! Therefore, the Sabbath is a sign that Israel belongs to one living God, who created human beings for the purpose of relationship. The Sabbath is also a sign of trust that God is our provider and that He will provide everything we need!
I am reminded of a challenge that I received many years ago before I entered fulltime ministry. In that period of my life, I was working about 80 hours a week, 7 days a week. I was sharing with a friend about how much I was working and he asked me a very important question that I’ll never forget. He asked, “Moran, do you think that in six days, God can accomplish what you can do in your own strength in seven days?” I was so convicted by my lack of trust in God’s supernatural provision for my life, and I started to take a Sabbath one day a week to rest and to be with Him.
In essence, God shows us that part of doing His “work” — building His Kingdom — includes time to spend with Him and to trust in His provision for us and our families. Even when we are doing God’s work, we need to stop, seek Him, follow His instructions, and apply His wisdom to our lives.
I would like to encourage you to take a break from the daily grind, and simply spend some time with your Creator.
This article originally appeared on Hope for Israel and is reposted with permission.
Moran is the Founder and Executive Director of Hope for Israel, which is a service and resource-providing ministry that aims to bring the hope of the Messiah back to Israel. It is also a resource center for current and timely news updates concerning Israel that provides daily prayer alerts, Bible teachings, and weekly blogs in order to help believers across the world understand what God is doing in the Land, how to pray for Israel and filter everything through the Word of God.