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NYT op-ed hails Zelensky as the Jewish leader Netanyahu should be

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, left, meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, in Jerusalem, January 24, 2020. (Haim Zach/GPO)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, left, meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, in Jerusalem, January 24, 2020. (Haim Zach/GPO)

An op-ed published by conservative columnist Bret Stephens in the New York Times takes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to task for enabling corruption in Israel and compares him unfavorably to another Jewish world leader, Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky.

Stephens, a former editor in chief of the Jerusalem Post, notes how Zelensky fired a corrupt official on Sunday vowing to rid Ukraine of corruption. At the same time, Netanyahu was forced by the High Court of Justice to fire Shas leader Aryeh Deri over his criminal convictions but vowed to do everything he could to bring him back into the government.

“What a contrast,” Stephens writes. “Amid a desperate war of national survival, Zelensky is waging a campaign to kick the crooks out of government. And in a desperate bid to remain in office, Netanyahu is waging a campaign to keep the crooks in.”

Stephens writes that he used to admire Netanyahu for his good governance, leading Israel’s flourishing economy and thwarting Iran’s drive to nuclear weapons, but no longer.

“For these reasons, I once called Netanyahu the Richard Nixon of Israel. But that turned out to be deeply unkind — to Nixon. At least there were limits to what the 37th president was willing to do to the system of constitutional government to keep himself in office,” he writes.

Stephens slams Netanyahu for planning a judicial overhaul that will undermine democracy in order to extricate himself from his corruption trials and put Israel on a path toward authoritarian rule.

“But if Israel is to persevere, it also must maintain the moral respect of its honest friends. Too bad for it that, today, the Jewish people’s greatest leader resides in Kyiv rather than Jerusalem,” he says.

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