Analysis

Yair Netanyahu Strip Club Recordings: A Repulsive Story That Captures a Repulsive Period

The problem with the prime ministers son lies not in the legal realm but with the gag reflex it evokes. Its not criminal. Worse: Its disgraceful

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his son Yair visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem, March 18, 2015.
THOMAS COEX/AFP

When the dust settles – this time, as the times before it – well again be left with a sour feeling of repulsion and disgust; mainly disgust and discomfort over what has become of this place. Discomfort over the question of values, a feeling that rot has set in and we are condemned to look at it being able to salvage the situation.

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You hear the recording of the comments made by prime ministers son, Yair Netanyahu, outside of a strip club and right away you look for a smoking gun. This is the prevailing instinct: looking for evidence that will topple the palace. Natural gas is a likely candidate – piles of money, multiple interests, numerous question marks.

You listen to the drunken Netanyahu joking about 20 billion shekels with his friend, the son of gas tycoon Kobi Maimon. You want to believe that this gun can also fire. But as much as you twist and turn it, the words dont seem serious; they are baseless, superficial, like some internet prattle with questionable humor mixed in. Perhaps enormous personal interests roil under the surface, but we only see their faded alcohol-laced traces. In any case, its difficult to stand upon this rotten earth and feel secure.

You hear the ugly, repulsive words, the arrogant tone, the disdain expressed toward women, their objectivization in its most pathetic form. Its ugly, so ugly that you mutter to yourself, Where was this child raised?, Is this the son of a prime minister? and What happened to this place? But you know that this is no smoking gun.

Bodyguards take him to a series of strip clubs. Yes, employees of the state in the service of lap dances! Look what they're wasting public money on, you mutter to yourself, knowing that this may be a smoking gun, or at least a cap gun. But you realize something more important: There is a gap, a chasm that's too big between the smoking cap gun and the feelings of revulsion. In other words, even if some legal process ruled that there was a transgression here and that a slap on the wrist is in order, what does that have to do with the pit opening up beneath us, with the sensations and the emotions evoked by the pictures and words we have been exposed to?

This is exactly the story with the recording featuring the son Yair – and to a great extent, it's the story with the father Benjamin's the years in power. The issue is not in the legal realm or the criminal one, the one requiring connecting thousands of dots while praying that no one maintains their right to remain silent.

The real problem is the evoked gag reflex and the sense of revulsion that percolates slowly and persistently. Simple disgust, pure and distilled, made up of the usual components: disdain, arrogance, condescension, beastliness, stinginess. Its not criminal. Worse: Its disgraceful. You simply feel ashamed. Is there anything more shameful than the feeling of being ashamed?

Netanyahu is not a bad prime minister when it comes to defense and the economy. Overall, people live well here and feel quite secure, certainly compared to our troubled neighborhood. But Netanyahu is also a prime minister who injects heaps of disgusting values into the body politic, heaps of moral despair, heaps of daily sourness that become what he terms life itself. His son, after all, is his son. That sums it up.