Each year, in October, the world's economic leaders gather in Washington for the Internation Monetary Fund conference. There are discussions, arguments and also plenty of receptions.
When representatives of Western nations arrive for this or that discussion, they do so individually, in ordinary taxis. Israeli representatives arrive in small groups, using an embassy vehicle. But when African representatives arrive, one sees huge delegations, luxury cars, women in multicolored clothes - a real happening.
A visitor from Mars might conclude that Africa's nations are the world's most affluent and be moved to pity at the sight of the poor Western countries - the U.S., U.K., France and Germany - who have to save and can only provide their representatives with spartan conditions.
The reality, of course, is the opposite and can be explained by the "law of the budget opposite," which states: The poorer the nation, the more wasteful, extravagant and corrupt its government.
Benjamin Netanyahu claims that media reports of his trip to London that cost NIS 131,000 (not including the flight tickets) are nothing but "political persecution" aimed at stopping him from reaching office. He says the trip did not cost the state a shekel because it was paid for by "Israel Bonds and the Jewish community," while he covered his personal expenses. He even filed a lawsuit for slander against Channel 10 and its reporter Raviv Drucker, who broke the story.
But who if not Netanyahu should know that he comes from a poor country, a country embroiled by serious internal and external problems. He is aware of the poverty figures and the distress, the gap between the rich and the poor, and the country's budget problems. He is also aware of the external threats; after all, he makes a living off them. How, then, could he have so casually spent NIS 20,000 a day during an advocacy trip to London?
If he wanted to prevent "political persecution," what could have been simpler than to act as one of the people, as a representative of a country at war? During these days, Israel was engaged in the Second Lebanon War and its soldiers and citizens were being killed.
Nobody forced him to fly first class, where tickets cost double those of business. No one made him order a suite at the posh Connaught, which costs an unbelievable NIS 12,000 a night. Even the Shin Bet security service, whose bodyguards had to be lodged in the same hotel on the same floor, complained at the trip's high cost.
Anyone who travels abroad for a few days takes a few spare shirts with him. So how does one end up paying NIS 3,500 on laundry services? How did Sara Netanyahu manage to spend NIS 2,500 on a hairdresser? Or run up a bill of NIS 11,000 on theater tickets - even if the price entails tickets for the bodyguards?
This kind of behavior belongs to someone who feels superior to the rest of the public, who thinks he has super-status. Someone who considers himself some sort of king who deserves everything, while the multitudes carry on with their daily difficulties. What the king is allowed, his subjects are forbidden.
Netanyahu claims that the state did not pay for his stay in London, but there is nothing comforting about that. It's even more disconcerting. Who are those anonymous donors who funded that trip, the so-called "Jewish community"? If a British millionaire who heads a small Jewish organization funded his stay at a fancy hotel, it's even more ethically troubling. The public does not know what that millionaire's agenda is. One can only guess what will happen if he asks a favor from the politician whose trip he funded.
According to the Civil Service Law (Gifts), a public official cannot receive gifts or favors of any kind, unless it is deemed within reason and is not expensive. It's clear that in this case, we are not talking of anything small or reasonable. It also, apparently, constitutes a breach of the Knesset members ethical code; these are issues that will be examined in the coming days.
Labor Party chief Ehud Barak says Netanyahu does not need to be fought head on. Rather, one should wait for him to bring himself down because Netanyahu is his own worst enemy. The London jaunt, at the height of the Lebanon war, was unworthy and unethical and shows that Barak knows exactly what he is talking about.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now