*Netanyahu is trying to play the victim. Will he get away with it?*
Netanyahu is trying to play the victim. Will he get away with it?
By Gershom Gorenberg February 15, 2018 at 1:39 PM
An old Jewish folktale explains Benjamin Netanyahu’s political strategy
in the face of the escalating corruption case against him:
A Polish count demanded that the rabbi of the village on his lands
appear before him. The rabbi and his assistant arrived to find the count
petting his hound. “Teach this dog to talk,” said the count, “or I’ll
expel the Jews.” The rabbi stroked his beard, and replied, “Certainly,
I’ll teach him. But it will take a year.”
After they left the manor house, the assistant demanded, “How could you
agree? We’re doomed!”
“Don’t worry,” said the rabbi. “A year is a long time. Either the dog
will die or the count will die.”
The story is so well known that in Hebrew that you need only say “the
count will die” to have told the whole thing. In Netanyahu’s case, it
has a double meaning: He’s playing for time, and he’s presenting himself
— the cigar-puffing fourth-term prime minister — as being like the rabbi
in the tale, the little guy who’s up against malevolent forces.
On Tuesday evening, Israel’s national police force released its
long-awaited conclusions in two investigations against Netanyahu. In
both, it said there was sufficiently solid evidence to indict the prime
minister for bribery.
In one case, the police said, Netanyahu received 1 million shekels
($280,000) worth of cigars, champagne and jewelry from two businessmen,
and gave a quid pro quo including an attempt to change tax law in a
manner “contrary to the national interest” and pressing the U.S.
administration to extend one of the men’s American visa. In the other,
police said, Netanyahu negotiated with the publisher of one of Israel’s
two leading newspapers to help it financially in return for favorable
Netanyahu answered the police with a speech insisting on his innocence.
That’s his right.
But for months he has portrayed the investigation as a slow-motion coup
attempt by the press, the left and the police. In Tuesday’s speech,
Netanyahu suggested the police were driven by personal animus, though
he’d dedicated his “entire life” to the state. In short, the dangerous,
powerful police were trying to crush poor, idealistic Benjamin Netanyahu.
The victim gambit is transparently false. But despite the damning
recommendations, peculiar legal and political twists could help
Netanyahu hold on to power.
To start with, the police only recommend. It’s the attorney general,
Avichai Mandelblit, who has to decide whether to indict. In theory, the
threshold of evidence should be the same for the prime minister as for
any citizen. But indicting the prime minister is likely to lead to the
fall of the government and possibly to new elections. If, after all
that, the prosecution fails to get a conviction, it could confirm
Netanyahu’s narrative of a coup by law enforcement.
So Mandelblit, never known for quick decisions, is likely to be even
more cautious about this one. A year could easily pass.
Ironically, the police may have given Netanyahu two advantages in the
political battles during that time.
One is that they recommended charging Noni Mozes, publisher of the daily
Yedioth Ahronoth, with offering Netanyahu a bribe to reduce the
circulation of the competing Israel Hayom. The latter paper’s support
for Netanyahu makes Fox News look unbiased. If Mozes uses his pages,
however subtly, to raise doubts about the case, the readers of both
major newspapers will be getting coverage slanted in Netanyahu’s favor.
In the other bribery case, one allegation is that Netanyahu tried to
create a tax break for Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan,
the main supplier of his cigars and other goodies. A key witness is
former finance minister Yair Lapid, who opposed the move. Lapid, head of
the centrist Yesh Atid party, is today the highest-polling challenger to
Netanyahu for the premiership. So the prime minister’s allies are
already accusing Lapid of giving testimony purely to push Netanyahu from
For now, Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition partners are sticking with
him, at least until they see a major shift in public mood. Yet that
shift could be toward Netanyahu if the tension on the Syrian border
keeps growing. When war looms, people tend to rally around the government.
It is impossible to prove that Netanyahu is acting or speaking a shade
too aggressively in order to focus attention on the external threat. It
would also be naive to ignore the possibility.
Barring a flare-up in the north, though, the likely escalation is in
demonstrations against corruption, which have already been going on for
months. Eventually, at least one coalition partner will decide not to be
stained by association with a four-term prime minister who allegedly
preferred cigars, champagne and sycophantic news coverage to his
The essential flaw in Netanyahu’s strategy is that he’s not a victim.
He’s the man who has grown used to thinking that power is his personal
property. And after the police recommendations, it might not take all
that long for his support to crumble.
Gershom Gorenberg is an Israeli historian and journalist. His books
include The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements,
1967-1977 and The Unmaking of Israel. He is a senior correspondent for
The American Prospect and has written for The Atlantic Monthly, The New
York Times Magazine, and The New York Review of Books.
Israel’s Netanyahu is no stranger to scandals
JERUSALEM (AP) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, fighting for his
political life after being accused of taking bribes from billionaire
supporters, is no stranger to scandal.
Over a three-decade political career, Netanyahu has been accused of
everything from accepting improper gifts to spending too much public
money on ice cream to wasting tens of thousands of dollars on a
custom-fitted bed for a five-hour flight to London. Close confidants and
even family members have also come under suspicion.
With cat-like deftness, Netanyahu has always managed to escape
prosecution. But the latest scandal may be the most serious threat yet
to his lengthy rule.
Police announced late Tuesday that there was sufficient evidence to
indict Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in a pair of cases.
In the first, he is suspected of accepting nearly $300,000 in gifts,
including champagne and fancy cigars, from Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan
and Australian billionaire James Packer. In exchange, Netanyahu
allegedly lobbied U.S. officials on Milchan’s behalf in a visa matter
and helped promote his business affairs in Israel.
In the second case, he is suspected of offering preferential treatment
to a newspaper publisher in exchange for favorable coverage.
Netanyahu has angrily rejected the accusations and denounced what he
describes as an overzealous police investigation.
In a televised address Tuesday night, he said he had faced 15
investigations over the years, all of which, he claimed, amounted to
“nothing.” He similarly predicted the latest uproar would pass.
For the time being, Netanyahu’s job remains secure, with his coalition
lining up behind him as opponents urge him to step aside. His attorney
general, Avihai Mandelblit, will now review the evidence and make the
final decision on whether to press charges — a process that is expected
to take months. That means Netanyahu faces a difficult period ahead as
his every move will be clouded by the looming investigation.
Here is a look at some of the scandals that have plagued Netanyahu, his
family and his confidants over the years.
During his first term in office in the 1990s, Netanyahu was suspected of
engineering the short-lived appointment of a crony as attorney general
in exchange for political support from the Shas party. Prosecutors
called Netanyahu’s conduct “puzzling,” but stopped short of filing charges.
During that same stint as prime minister, Netanyahu and his wife Sara
were suspected of taking gifts he received from world leaders — items
considered state property. The Netanyahus also were suspected of
accepting favors from a contractor. Both cases were closed without charges.
Netanyahu was suspected of double billing travel expenses and using
state funds to cover travel for his family in the 2000s, while he was
finance minister and opposition leader. After a lengthy investigation,
the attorney general dismissed the case.
Sara Netanyahu has faced repeated allegations of mistreating household
help. During their first term in office, the family’s nanny said she was
fired by Netanyahu’s wife for burning a pot of vegetable soup. The young
woman said she was thrown out of the family’s home without her clothes
or passport, and later was ordered to pick up her belongings dumped
outside the front gate. Netanyahu’s office said the woman was fired
because she was prone to violent outbursts.
More recently, a Jerusalem labor court awarded $30,000 in damages to a
former employee of the first lady who claimed he faced yelling and
unreasonable demands. Last month, a recording emerged of Sara Netanyahu
screaming at an aide as she complained that a gossip column about her
did not mention her educational credentials.
HEY, BIG SPENDER
In 2016, an official expense report found that Netanyahu spent more than
$600,000 of public funds on a six-day trip to New York, including $1,600
on a personal hairdresser. Three years earlier, he was chided for
spending $127,000 in public funds for a special sleeping cabin on a
flight to London. Netanyahu said he was unaware of the cost and halted
the practice. He also halted purchases at his favorite Jerusalem ice
cream parlor that year after a newspaper reported his office ran up a
$2,700 bill, mostly for vanilla and pistachio.
Israel’s attorney general announced last fall that he is considering
charging Sara Netanyahu with graft, fraud and breach of trust for
alleged overspending of over $100,000 in public funds on private meals
at the prime minister’s official residence. At the same time, the
attorney general dismissed allegations that the Netanyahus used
government money to buy furniture for their private beach house and used
state funds to pay for medical care for Sara Netanyahu’s late father.
Last month a recording surfaced of Netanyahu’s eldest son, Yair,
joyriding with his wealthy buddies to Tel Aviv strip clubs in a drunken
night out in a taxpayer-funded government vehicle. The 26-year-old
Netanyahu has drawn criticism over the years for living a life of
privilege at taxpayers’ expense, hobnobbing with ultra-rich donors and
making crude social media posts, all while never holding down a job.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, a Netanyahu confidant, was suspected
in a long-running corruption case of illicitly receiving money and
laundering it through shell companies in eastern Europe. In 2012,
Israel’s attorney general dismissed the most serious charges, saying the
case would be virtually impossible to prove. A report at the time said
he noted that key witnesses lived outside the country, that Lieberman’s
lawyer had invoked the right to remain silent, and that two key
witnesses had died while a third had disappeared. Lieberman was indicted
on lesser graft charges. That case forced him to step down as foreign
minister, but he was ultimately cleared and returned to the post a year
David Bitan, one of Netanyahu’s closest allies, resigned as coalition
whip in December due to suspicions that he accepted bribes as a
municipal politician. Bitan has invoked his right to remain silent
during repeated police interrogations.
From South America, where payment must be made with subtlety, the
Bormann organization has made a substantial contribution. It has drawn
many of the brightest Jewish businessmen into a participatory role in
the development of many of its corporations, and many of these Jews
share their prosperity most generously with Israel. If their proposals
are sound, they are even provided with a specially dispensed venture
capital fund. I spoke with one Jewish businessmen in Hartford,
Connecticut. He had arrived there quite unknown several years before our
conversation, but with Bormann money as his leverage. Today he is more
than a millionaire, a quiet leader in the community with a certain share
of his profits earmarked as always for his venture capital benefactors.
This has taken place in many other instances across America and
demonstrates how Bormann’s people operate in the contemporary commercial
world, in contrast to the fanciful nonsense with which Nazis are
described in so much “literature.”
So much emphasis is placed on select Jewish participation in Bormann
companies that when Adolf Eichmann was seized and taken to Tel Aviv to
stand trial, it produced a shock wave in the Jewish and German
communities of Buenos Aires. Jewish leaders informed the Israeli
authorities in no uncertain terms that this must never happen again
because a repetition would permanently rupture relations with the
Germans of Latin America, as well as with the Bormann organization, and
cut off the flow of Jewish money to Israel. It never happened again, and
the pursuit of Bormann quieted down at the request of these Jewish
leaders. He is residing in an Argentinian safe haven, protected by the
most efficient German infrastructure in history as well as by all those
whose prosperity depends on his well-being.
Please consider seriously the reason why these elite institutions are not discussed in the mainstream press despite the immense financial and political power they wield?
There are sick and evil occultists running the Western World. They are power mad lunatics like something from a kids cartoon with their fingers on the nuclear button! Armageddon is closer than you thought. Only God can save our souls from their clutches, at least that's my considered opinion - Tony
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