Let the game begin
Danny Naveh of the baby face has a friend named Reuven Gavrieli, a gambling tycoon and owner of casinos. Naveh says he has never hidden his ties with Gavrieli - but until this week's Likud primary those ties were not widely known.
Danny Naveh of the baby face has a friend named Reuven Gavrieli, a gambling tycoon and owner of casinos. Naveh says he has never hidden his ties with Gavrieli - or, more accurately, with the Gavrieli family - but until this week's Likud primary, which ranked the Likud candidates for the Knesset (Naveh finished third), those ties were not widely known. Naveh, it turns out, was the agreed candidate in the deal that Justice Minister Meir Sheetrit dubbed "the mafia" - the deal linking the Gavrieli family, the Alperon family, David Appel and Eitan Sulami.
Moussa Alperon, a well-known offender against the law who last year became a member of the Likud Central Committee, was asked this week to name the people on his list of recommended candidates in the primary. The first name he cited was Danny Naveh. Only afterward did he lavish praise on Inbal Gavrieli.
Naveh took part in a rally organized by the Gavrieli family at the Ariana Club in Jaffa just a few days before the primary on Sunday. Also present at the gathering, which was intended to drum up support for the Gavrieli family's young candidate, Inbal, were Public Security Minister Uzi Landau, Environment Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, Regional Development Minister Roni Milo and Communications Minister Reuven Rivlin. Rivlin, by the way, had no idea that the young Gavrieli would pass him on the list in her race for the top and finish in 29th place. Nor did Jerusalem mayor Ehud Olmert. (Gavrieli was afterward moved to 31st place, following an appeal by MK Ze'ev Boim, chairman of the Likud Knesset faction, concerning the slots reserved for women; she is still ahead of both Olmert and Rivlin.)
Indeed, this primary broke all the rules and shattered all the conventions. Naveh went all the way south to the development town of Ofakim in order to appear at a rally organized and paid for by the Gavrieli family in honor of the previously unknown Inbal. The family asked Danny to appear together with Inbal, so he came.
"I do not hide the fact that I have ties with him [referring to Reuven Gavrieli]," Naveh says. "When they asked me to take part in their rally [in Ofakim], I was glad to do it. There is no give-and-take between me and Moussa Alperon. So what if he voted for me: I didn't promise him anything."
And what about his support as part of the Gavrieli-Alperon-Appel-Sulami deal? "I never asked for their support and by the same token I promised nothing," Naveh says. "I wish many people would behave as above-board as I do. You can't get to third place in the Likud list by means of a deal - only move up one slot. I made no deal with Alperon."
And what about the Gavrieli family? "I suppose Gavrieli supported me, but it wasn't part of a deal. If Gavrieli wants to support me, that is his full right. I didn't get anything from them. I achieved what I did because of support that cuts across camps. I am neither a prince nor the son of a prince. I worked hard. I came up from below, from Likud Youth. My father was a simple shoemaker and he was right when he told me that I would have a hard time in politics."
And if Reuven Gavrieli should ask for his help and cash in his marker of support? "I will help him substantively, on its merits, in accordance with the law," Naveh says.
Naveh wants an "operational portfolio" in the next government, a "social-economic portfolio." He doesn't want to be a junior minister any more, but a senior minister as befits his status - "otherwise it will be an affront to the Central Committee members who backed me," as his confidants stated this week. There are members of the Likud Central Committee who don't like it when their candidate is refused what he wants.
Where once the question could be phrased in terms of who has more power and influence - Yitzhak Shamir or David Levy? Ariel Sharon or Benjamin Netanyahu? - today the question has to be rephrased: Who has greater influence on the members of the Likud Central Committee: the Gavrieli family or the Alperon family?
Alperon admits frankly that the answer to that question is clear. "They [the Gavrieli family] have more money, so they have more influence," he says. And is there no conflict of interests between the two families? "This is politics, this isn't criminality here. We have nothing against one another," Alperon replies. "This is only my first year in politics. Am I in a position to compete against Gavrieli? I'm new, I want to learn how things work. I'm only 50. Maybe next time I will be a Knesset member."
In the past it was Mordechai Tzarfati, better known as "Mantesh," who worked with Mapai, the forerunner of the Labor Party. Officially he was said to be in charge of "bringing chairs to party meetings." Unofficially, Mantesh and his people made sure order was maintained at the party's meetings, saw to it that everyone behaved properly and also expressed support for the leadership. Today the new Mapai - the Likud - has new heroes behind the scenes and they aren't hiding behind the cover of bringing chairs to meetings or organizing a sympathetic audience. They are running their own candidates for the Knesset.
Alperon is pleased with the Likud's new list. "Changes need to be made all the time, new faces are needed. It's not absence of experience, it's absence of corruption. When faces change, people don't get into corruption. I am favorably impressed by Inbal Gavrieli, who is an ambitious girl whose future is ahead of her and has a great deal of self-confidence. I like her as a politician."
Alperon also supported Leah Ness, who finished 34th (but was afterward moved to 36th place in the wake of Boim's appeal). Ness, who described herself as "the only religious woman in the Likud," was also on the recommended list of the "big deal."
"I have values for the tradition, for the Jewish heritage and the Land of Israel. I keep the commandments, am religious and the graduate of a girls religious school," says Ness, who is Alperon's neighbor in Givat Shmuel. "I approached all the members of the Central Committee and if Alperon thinks I am a worthy candidate and voted for me, I have no problem with that," she says. "There are five Central Committee members in Givat Shmuel, and Moussa is one of them."
Ness denies that she was assisted by Sheli Narkiss, one of the kings of the "gray market" in Israel who is now facing trial for failing to report part of his earnings from money changing in the gray market to the income tax authorities. Did Narkiss help her stump the country? "Not that I heard of," she says after a lengthy silence. "I heard his name but I didn't hear that he helped me."
Narkiss was asked for his reaction. "I am now sitting with family, I don't owe you anything," he said. End of conversation.
Go directly to the Knesset
The activity of Ruhama Avraham, formerly the bureau chief of Benjamin Netanyahu, in the National Infrastructure Ministry, consisted largely of arranging things for members of the Likud Central Committee. MK Avigdor Lieberman (National Union) brought her to the ministry when he was given the national infrastructure portfolio and it was from that base that Avraham organized her brilliant race for the Knesset, finishing in the very respectable 18th slot.
In 1996, shortly before the elections, Michael Gorlovsky, who was chosen as the representative of the new immigrants on the Likud list (28th place), was photographed removing campaign signs of the Labor Party near the Sha'ar Haggai intersection on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway. Gorlovsky was formerly Lieberman's chauffeur and operations man. He will be a member of the Knesset that will be elected on January 28.
Starting out as lackeys and gofers, Avraham and Gorlovsky became "vote contractors" and then Knesset members. If in the past the usual route to the Knesset passed through a term or two as mayor or council head, these days vote contractors move straight into parliament.
In the face of these new players, Education Minister Limor Livnat stated with a sour face that she made no promises to anyone, despite the demands made by Central Committee members in matters relating to the ministry she heads. Alperon says that he did not place Livnat's name on his lists. But her name did appear in the lists of the shady building contractor David Appel. So within the "big deal" there was also a "little deal." Alperon, for example, marked the name of MK Michael Eitan. He likes Mickey. Appel's people marked Livnat's name instead. As part of the agreement in the "big deal," a few slots remain empty for the personal choice of the voter.
Silvan Shalom, the finance minister, didn't rely on the deal devised by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his son, Omri, and worked out his own deals. A deal with Yitzhak Kaufman, the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) vote contractor from Jerusalem, a deal with the far-right Moshe Feiglin, a deal here, a deal there. Shalom's name appears on almost every deal, which accounts for his high finish (second in the primary and fourth on the Likud list, whose first two places were reserved for Sharon and Netanyahu). For example, Shalom's name appears in the deal of Alperon and Gavrieli, who like him, too. Businesswoman Pnina Rosenblum, who was urged by Shalom to compete against Ruhama Avraham - who is close to Netanyahu - ended low on the list (39th), with Gavrieli getting the slot instead of her.
"Of course I went to Kaufman to ask for support, but what could I give him?" Shalom says in response. "For three and a half weeks I worked from morning until night. I met with Central Committee members and won them around. I did not exchange one word with Reuven Gavrieli before the primary."
This week the police decided to open an investigation against Gila Gamliel, who won 11th place on the list, ahead of cabinet ministers and Knesset members. According to an investigative report by Army Radio, Gamliel, who is head of the national students union, is allegedly suspected of transferring student funds to a private company. Those who watched "The Weakest Link" quiz show on Channel 10 this week - a "special on the Likud primary elections" - got a glimpse of the secret of her success. She didn't know the answers to most of the questions but nonetheless succeeded in reaching the final stage, losing honorably to "a celebrated politician," as she put it - former MK Akiva Nof.
There are some new and talented people on the Likud list, such as the mayor of Or Akiva, Ya'akov Edri (23rd place), and former cabinet secretary Gideon Sa'ar (19th place). But there are also people who are going to become Knesset members about whom we know very little and who for their part know very little about the workings of the Knesset, but do know to whom they are beholden.
Tzachi Hanegbi, who finished first in the primary, also supported Inbal Gavrieli, and his name was included in the "big deal." Hanegbi could have won top spot even if he had skipped the rally at the Ariana Club, but when he was asked to appear, he did.
Hanegbi decided to gamble this time. An ad that was placed in an unknown local paper called "The Central Things," which was circulated among the Central Committee members and was immediately brought to the attention of political reporters, asserted that "Tzachi Hanegbi holds the national record for appointing Likud members" to cushy jobs. Nowadays you can take pride in things that once were kept hidden. Hanegbi, who is quoted in the ad ("I plead guilty: whenever I was able to offer one of the guys a position that suited his qualifications, I asked him to submit his candidacy"), denied having anything to do with it, but did not hide his glee at the to-do that followed. It was exactly what he needed ahead of the primary elections: to declare himself king of the jobs.
Hanegbi was amused by the petition filed by the Movement for Quality Government in Israel to the Central Elections Committee in the wake of the ad. He had nothing to with the ad, so what do they want from him. "I didn't pay for the ad, and it contained exaggerations, but I thank the Movement for Quality Government for joining my campaign and inflating the ad out of all proportion," he says with satisfaction. "People like me, that's all. That's why I won first place."
He was elected to the top slot thanks to "dozens of appointments," his closest confidants admit, and also because he is chairman of the Likud Central Committee and because this time he didn't identify with either the Sharon camp or the Netanyahu camp. Those who sat on the fence in this primary, profited.
According to a public opinion poll conducted by Mina Tzemach this week (Yedioth Ahronoth, Wednesday), the Likud lost five Knesset seats in the wake of the raucous primary. The stories about corruption and buying power will soon come out. The fact that Sharon did not bother to work for his people (apart from Omri, his son) meant that Rivlin, Olmert and Tzipi Livni, another cabinet minister, sustained mortal blows. Hanegbi was upset that Sharon appointed Olmert chairman of the election campaign despite his failure in the primary. He wanted that job. Netanyahu's loyalists in the Likud faction are now waiting tensely to see what Sharon will give them after the elections.
Two days after being elected to the top slot, Hanegbi was no longer sitting on the fence but had reverted to being Netanyahu's gunslinger. He fired off a warning to Sharon: "Sharon will be making a mistake if he moves against Netanyahu. Netanyahu has to be foreign minister in the next government, even if it is a national unity government. The Labor Party will not come into the government with a majority. It will not be a parity government."
Hanegbi also announced that he wants a "senior economic portfolio in the next government. Everything is honorable as far as I am concerned - Interior, Transportation, National Infrastructure or Housing." Honorable, meaning an appointments-rich portfolio; Hanegbi will have to make good on all those promises to the Central Committee members.
What Mitzna doesn't have
On Monday, the same pensioners and kibbutzniks who voted for Amram Mitzna and against Benjamin Ben-Eliezer in the race for the party leadership voted for Ben-Eliezer's people and against Mitzna's. It wasn't just the organizational labors of "Force Fuad," which worked for the election of Ephraim Sneh, Dalia Itzik, Eitan Cabel, Colette Avital and the others in the camp - it was the "Oslo effect." Everyone who was identified with the left in Labor was shunted out. Neither the pensioners nor the kibbutzniks, Mitzna's two bastions of support, like people who continue to cling to their views despite the terrorism.
On Wednesday of this week there was loud rejoicing at Labor Party headquarters in Tel Aviv's disadvantaged Hatikva neighborhood at the fall of Yossi Beilin, Yael Dayan and Tsali Reshef. They belong to Meretz, so let them go there.
Mitzna, who worked for the election of Eli Amir (and failed) and of Yuli Tamir (who came in second to Dalia Itzik in the women's race), got a list void of any form of radicalism. But his troubles will start immediately after election day. Mitzna doesn't have the support of either the Central Committee, the party convention, the Knesset faction or the party apparatus. He won't be able to fight the battle with Yuli Tamir alone. He will need the help of Ben-Eliezer and his people at almost every step of the way, and Ben-Eliezer's people reminded everyone this week about the article in the party's constitution that states that another election for the party leadership can be held 14 months after the general elections.
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