Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has finally admitted to being a pathological liar, as well as a corrupt and reckless leader. That’s what emerges from his whining, self-victimizing Facebook post on Sunday, which was born of his twofold distress.
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The revelation of his contacts with Yedioth Ahronoth and Ynet publisher Arnon Mozes – to swap favorable coverage in Yedioth for the weakening of its rival, Israel Hayom, through legislation – obviously puts him at risk of indictment. But it also exposes him to another threat: the wrath of his billionaire sponsor, Sheldon Adelson, and the family newspaper that the casino tycoon founded and published for him – losing nearly a billion shekels ($261.3 million) in the process.
Netanyahu was trying to counter both threats at once: to claim that he had never worked to weaken Israel Hayom but, on the contrary, had done everything he could to strengthen its position. Thus, he tried to both calm the fury of the woman scorned (Adelson and Israel Hayom), while denying the criminal allegations (bribery, illegal benefits, exploiting the legislature for his personal and business interests, and anti-trust violations).
This is what Netanyahu wrote, after accusing unnamed forces of “an orchestrated media campaign of unprecedented proportions to bring down the Likud government I head,” and the spreading of “deliberate lies” about him:
“We all know I was vehemently opposed to the ‘Israel Hayom law.’ For long months I blocked the submission of the bill for a preliminary reading. When it came to a vote, I voted against it, along with a handful of Knesset members that included most of my Likud colleagues. It is also known that after the law passed by a large majority, I dissolved the government and went to elections, among other things because of the subversion from within the government to pass the law. Everyone also knows that with the establishment of the new government after the election, I inserted an explicit clause into the governing coalition agreements to prevent the recurrence of such legislation.
“Because of all this, nothing happened. Israel Hayom remains intact and flourishing, while the bad press I got in Yedioth Ahronoth and Ynet didn’t stop for a minute. So all these claims that I worked to advance the Israel Hayom law are false.”
That’s it. Nothing about proper administration, public norms, ethics or public trust. Just Israel Hayom, now and forever. The problem is that these words, when taken together with those hot recordings, bog Netanyahu down in lies.
The first lie is transparent and really embarrassing. The recordings reveal that Netanyahu certainly did discuss with Mozes how best to advance the legislation that would weaken Israel Hayom. The discussion was technical and totally practical. The name of a lawmaker (Labor Party MK Eitan Cabel) was mentioned, and Netanyahu declared that a special committee would be set up to deal with the issue.
The second lie is from 2015. On the eve of the last election, Likud campaign chairman Shlomo Filber – now director general of the Communications Ministry – submitted an affidavit to the Central Elections Committee. This was in response to a petition the committee was hearing that asked it to block Israel Hayom from printing any election propaganda on behalf of Netanyahu.
In the affidavit Filber claimed: “Prime Minister Netanyahu has no and never had any connection of control or an organizational relationship of any kind with Israel Hayom or with its editorial offices or with the journalists who write for it, or any influence on the paper’s editorial judgment or its content, or on its establishment, founding or ongoing management.”
Any reasonable person realized then, as now, that this was a false and unfounded declaration. But now there is allegedly proof. In the taped conversations with Mozes, Netanyahu discussed how to influence the distribution of Israel Hayom, and also its content and ongoing management (regarding the publication of a weekend supplement). He even declared that he would have to discuss these matters with the “redheaded one,” i.e., Adelson, the publisher. And, of course, he admitted in his Facebook post that he worked to insert an explicit clause into the coalition agreements that deals with that very newspaper with which he ostensibly has no organizational ties of any kind.
But the third lie Netanyahu exposed is the most serious of all. It was also well-known, but until Sunday Netanyahu was careful not to reveal it: It’s the lie about the advancing of the last general election.
On December 2, 2014, Netanyahu fired then-Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni; as a result, Lapid’s fellow Yesh Atid ministers resigned and the government fell. In his press statement after the dismissals, Netanyahu declared, “In recent weeks, including over the past 24 hours, ministers Lapid and Livni sharply attacked the government I head. I will not tolerate any more opposition within the government, I will not tolerate ministers that attack the government’s policies and its leader from within the government.”
He added that he would “call for the dissolution of the Knesset as soon as possible, to go to the people and get a clear mandate from them to lead Israel.”
Indeed, that same evening Netanyahu held a press conference in which he declared that Livni and Lapid “joined efforts to tempt the ultra-Orthodox factions to depose the prime minister while they themselves were sitting in the government. The finance minister, who failed in his management of the economy, conspired with the justice minister in the dead of night against the man who heads the government. In a word, it’s called a putsch. You cannot run a government this way.”
This was three weeks after the Israel Hayom bill passed its first reading, to Netanyahu’s unbridled fury. But in his announcements, he never mentioned this as the reason for dismantling the government. He repeatedly talked of a putsch, of an opposition within the government, about governability, about renewing his mandate.
The reason is obvious: It looks patently insane to put the country through the whirlwind of an early election only two years after the previous election solely because of a preliminary vote on a bill that relates to some free newspaper. Holding an early election and replacing the Knesset and the government carries a huge price tag of around 2 billion shekels.
But in his post on Sunday, Netanyahu made it clear: “After the law passed by a large majority, I dissolved the government and went to elections, among other things because of the subversion from within the government to pass the law.”
Here is the golden evidence. Here is the smoking gun. The pathological liar got so stuck in his web of lies that he admitted, on Facebook, to advancing the election and wasting 2 billion shekels of public funds because of legislation that would have curbed the power of a newspaper (to which he has no connection and never has).
What is this if not some of the worst political and public corruption in Israel’s history?