Opinion

Leaked Tapes Show: Netanyahu Is a Different League, Indeed

Netanyahu and his wife Sara at a ceremony in Hebron, September 4, 2019.
Emil Salman

The findings from the recording that journalist Sefi Ovadiah revealed on Channel 13 News – in which the furious Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is heard scolding then-Communications Minister Ayoub Kara – are well known: the obsession with the media, the loathing of Ayelet Shaked, the selection of a government minister who will toady to him, hatred of the concentrations of power around him and a mad effort to shape the media market in accordance with his own personal needs.

The main value in the recording is its revelation of the extent to which all this is inherent in him and perceived by him as fateful, and hence it is possible to understand some of his other moves: the appointment of Matanyahu Englman as state comptroller, the appointment of Amir Ohana as justice minister, the dismissal Emi Palmor as director general of the Justice Ministry and the appointment of Daniel Hershkowitz as civil service commissioner.

>> Read more: Netanyahu has been warned over media intervention, but leaked audio reveals he's possessed | Analysis ■ Conflict of interest? The real story behind Netanyahu's rant at his communications minister

The tasks incumbent on these people are to demonstrate total loyalty to Netanyahu and to serve his interests above all else – with the establishment of a new permits committee in the State Comptroller’s Office that enables the prime minister to accept funding from his billionaire friends for his legal defense, and with the personnel changes at the Justice Ministry that will enable the appointment of a new state attorney who is more amenable than Shai Nitzan.

Yet if is possible to understand Netanyahu’s motives, it’s harder to understand those of the people around him. He demands that Likud members boycott a Channel 12 News conference, and they obey. He doesn’t want Roy Folkman to join Likud as part of Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu faction and his will is being carried out. He meets with the state comptroller a few days after his appointment, and immediately there’s a fresh breeze blowing there that enables the prime minister to receive private funding for his legal defense.

With his every bit of nonsense, Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, Ohana, interim Communications Minister David Amsalem and Culture Minister Miri Regev rush to his defense. There is no screw-up they won’t justify, no vermin they won’t kosher. Even a decent minister like Gilad Erdan at the Public Security Ministry, whose testimony to the police shows he was kicked out of the Ministry of Communications at the behest of Shaul Elovitch, hastens to cleanse Netanyahu of every suspicion. Plainly, Netanyahu has created a balance of terror in his party.

Sharp, experienced politicians, ones who know how to devastate opponents, are squirming to defend him lest they be caught uttering criticism and get denounced and punished by his son and his cronies.

“Netanyahu – a different league” blared the huge billboards on the eve of the April election, showing him alongside Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. This is the lofty Netanyahu. The person heard on his angry recording with Ayoub Kara is the lowly Netanyahu. There, too, he is in a different league.

Anyone who listens to the recording and isn’t particularly well informed might think the premier was a bit angry at his communications minister and was trying to persuade him to advance some minor regulatory move. Anyone better informed comes away with yet more proof that Netanyahu takes no prisoners. He appoints people he can control.

Kara was appointed communications minister after Netanyahu had to relinquish that portfolio during his investigation in Case 4000. Netanyahu needed an admiring, toadying minister, someone he could manage. Not some independent minister with positions and ideas of his own. He hates other wielders of power that have influence on his status or image – and it doesn’t matter if they’re on the left or right, in politics or the state bureaucracy.

He thumbs his nose at the attorney general’s recommendations Kara’s demands that he abolish the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council – the regulator that supervises the Yes satellite firm, which was owned by Netanyahu’s friend Shaul Elovitch (contrary to the attorney general’s instructions). He scorns professionals in the media, law and regulatory agencies; all of them can be moved or replaced and.

Netanyahu has a system of checks and balances in matters of security and the economy. He has no such system in matters of family and politics. People who have worked closely with him and provided him those checks and balances were cast out. People who went along with him got entangled and became state’s witnesses against him. Had he held onto a few of those people who watched over him, he might not be facing three criminal indictments.