Civil Service Commissioner Daniel Hershkowitz on Tuesday rebuked Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber and called for action against her over a strongly worded statement she made this week against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Zilber lambasted the government and Netanyahu on Sunday, likening the premier’s attacks on the judiciary and other opponents to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a notorious fabricated anti-Semitic text from 1903 purporting to describe a Jewish cabal plotting global domination.
In a lengthy speech broadcast during an online conference by the Israel Democracy Institute, Zilber railed against repeated claims by the premier and his allies that his indictment on graft charges is part of a “judicial coup” carried out by a network of shadowy unelected figures seeking to overthrow the government.
Hershkowitz said he viewed Zilber’s comments “with severity” and urged Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to take action.
He noted that Zilber has been previously reprimanded for similar conduct and asked Mandelblit to deal with the matter “in accordance with its severity and past events.”
Mandelblit reportedly summoned Zilber for a meeting on the issue, and issued a statement saying he would hear Zilber’s response and decide how to respond to Hershkowitz and others who have filed complaints about her speech.
Zilber herself has been the subject of many attacks in recent years by Netanyahu allies who slammed decisions by her that they described as leftist.
However, in September Netanyahu quietly extended her term by three months, angering members of the Yamina party, which is to the right of Likud. Zilber’s term is currently scheduled to conclude at the end of December.
Netanyahu is charged with corruption in three cases, including bribery in one of them. He denies any wrongdoing and has derided the cases as a politically motivated witch-hunt by police, prosecutors, the media, the left, and the courts — though he has not provided proof of those claims.
Critics of the premier say his attacks on the law enforcement system and on weekly protests against him, coupled with the destabilizing effects of the coronavirus, are major causes for a deeply polarizing atmosphere that has settled over Israel, and fear deadly violence could follow.
Netanyahu has been butting heads with Zilber’s boss, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, claiming he was blackmailed and forced to file the charges against him. Lately, Netanyahu has repeatedly rejected a legal opinion by Mandelblit barring the premier from intervening in the appointments of any senior law enforcement officials related to the investigations or the trial against him. Mandelblit says his decision is legally binding.
In her Sunday speech, Zilber said: “Sometimes, in order to not admit the truth of a lack of leadership, the fan is turned on to blow the blame in all directions. Instead of looking inward, they look away and… create an imaginary reality of a prosecution within the prosecution, or of a state of bureaucrats scheming in the darkness, plotting a judicial coup. Add some blood to the mix and you have — with a twist — a crazy comeback of the ‘Protocols of the Bureaucrats of Zion.’ A culture of scapegoating instead of one of taking responsibility.”
Zilber went on to compare Netanyahu’s ongoing criticism of government officials, while decrying the supposed loss of “the capacity to govern,” to the folktale “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”
“The ‘capacity to govern’ is the extravagant clothing made of the best materials by the best tailors in order to enable governance and policymaking, if only that weren’t hindered by the judges, legal advisers, Finance Ministry officials, the biased media, the anti-patriotic academia, the elitist culture world living at our expense and tarring our name internationally, satire shows that harm the national morale, consciousness manipulators, Wexner Foundation alumni, the New Israel Fund, the briny leftists, Arabs, or those who have forgotten what it means to be Jewish,” she said.
“The discourse about ‘the capacity to govern’ is the most effective spin factory to cover up for leadership failures,” Zilber said, adding another literary reference: “[English political writer] Samuel Johnson said: ‘Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.’ And the discourse about the ability to govern is sometimes the last refuge of the fake leader.”