Analysis |

Smelling Defeat, Netanyahu Surrendered and Abandoned His Lackeys

The stench of corruption within Netanyahu's Likud party is so strong that tens of thousands took to the streets of Tel Aviv to demonstrate - and forcing the heads of the coalition parties to recalculate their route

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, December 3, 2017.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, December 3, 2017.Credit: Emil Salman

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corrupt proxy war to cripple the police and conceal from the public their conclusions on the investigations against him was dealt a resound defeat. The man who “when I want something, I get it” has surrendered unconditionally. He proved, and not for the first time, that no one compares to him when it comes to fighting to the last drop of blood — of the sycophants who do his bidding and of his cowardly and morally inured partners in Likud and the coalition.

The moment he realized there was a real possibility of not being able to muster a majority for the bill, that something was going wrong, he cut his losses. He fled, setting aside his “pride” and leaving behind, rain-soaked, the honorable cabinet members and Knesset members who had humiliated themselves for his sake with excuses and explanations that seem even more pitiful today than when they were first uttered.

The prime minister’s latest moves reveal a person who has lost his judgment and mental balance. First it was the “French law,” intended to halt the investigation of Case 1000 (involving allegations that Netanyahu and his family received lavish gifts from two businessman) and Case 2000 (involving his recorded conversations with Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes over positive coverage), and if not them, then looking ahead to Case 3000 (involving allegations of illegal conduct by Netanyahu’s personal lawyer in the purchase of German boats and submarines) and Case 4000 (involving alleged misconduct by Bezeq executives and a Communication Ministry official, including two of the prime minister’s close associates).

This idiotic endeavor was nipped in the bud. Then, as a consolation prize for the VIP suspect, a bill popped up that became known as the “recommendations bill.” Since the winter session of the Knesset started, Netanyahu and his pair of accomplices, David A., a past suspect, and David B. a new suspect now being questioned on serious suspicions of bribery and ties to organized crime, have brought Likud to the lowest point yet. They painted their party in criminal hues, they gave Likud the identity of a party drowning in corruption.

MK David Amsalem was motivated by a desire for vengeance against the men in blue who dared question him in two different cases in the past, from which he escaped without charges. MK David Bitan, as it turns out, was clairvoyant when he put his weight behind the bill to silence the police. Above them, behind their back, in the darkness of his office, Netanyahu pulled the strings. As someone who is skilled at keeping his hands clean while protecting himself, he can’t be caught saying or doing anything implicating him in the deeds of the two Davids (apart from last week, when Yoav Horowitz, the Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister’s Bureau, was caught red-handed in the office of Amsalem, the bill’s sponsor, at the height of the debate over it).

Everything was kosher, everything permitted, for the sake of the supreme goal: to build a bulwark around the prime minister, who is deeply entangled in corrupt acts. The stench is so strong that on Saturday evening tens of thousands took to the streets of Tel Aviv to demonstrate.

That impressive popular protest caused the heads of the coalition parties to recalculate their route. They realized that they are in the path of the gathering public storm. Kulanu, whose chairman, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, had said that the bill in its amended form was not tailored to suit Netanyahu, said Sunday he would approve it only if it goes into effect three months after it is published in the Official Gazette — that is, long after the police complete their investigations of Case 1000 and Case 2000. It was an admission of guilt that casts Kahlon in a very bad light: He folded, lent a hand to corruption, didn’t tell the public the truth, panicked and flip-flopped.

The same is true for the leaders of Habayit Hayehudi. They wanted to put this abomination behind them. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked abandoned the law enforcement system that she heads and that looks to her leadership. Shaked managed to introduce a change or two that softened the original bill, but in fact she went along with the prime minister and lent a hand to the final version, which was roundly denounced by senior figures in the state prosecution.

Nor was this Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan’s finest hour. At one point he pledged not to allow the work of the police, which are under his authority, to be compromised. But he quickly retreated from the battlefield, presumably under the enormous pressure exerted by the Prime Minister’s Office. The investigators were on their own, abandoned in the field. (Perhaps they summoned Bitan for question on Sunday, when he was needed to wrap up the bill in committee before returning it to the Knesset floor — in reprisal.)

The politicians talked, declared, promised, babbled — and at the moment of truth, nothing remained. There’s a saying from the Talmud, “a coin in an empty vessel is very noisy.” They’re left with the shame, and we with the stink.

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