How Do You Say Macher in Hebrew?

Shady intermediaries can be found almost everywhere in Israel. Soon we'll have them in the halls of justice and at the police.

A few years ago, a wheeler-dealer from the ruling party met with the CEO of a government company. “I want you to hire my lobbying service,” said the hack to the CEO. “Why do I need your services?” asked the CEO. “Well, I can forge closer ties between you and the minister in charge; you know, he and I are good friends.” “And how much is this going to cost me?” the CEO asked. “A retainer of $3,000 to $4,000 a month.” “Thank you very much," the CEO said, “but I have an excellent relationship with the minister.”

After this strange conversation, the CEO discovered that, lo and behold, several government companies linked to the ministry had retained the hack's services.

In recent days, former Deputy Education Minister Micha Goldman testified in the Holyland trial. He described how a member of Nochi Dankner’s inner circle had asked him to help the tycoon get a decision through the Israel Lands Administration that favored a company he owned. To seal the deal, Dankner needed the help of ILA Chairman Yehiel Leket. Why did he pick Goldman to be the go-between? Because he and Leket were good friends.

“I phoned Hilik Leket and asked him to make time for a meeting with Danny Dankner,” Goldman told police interrogators, using a nickname for Yehiel and referring to Nochi's cousin. “Hilik told me he was willing to listen to Danny Dankner because I, Micha, was the one asking him to.”

For the meeting Goldman set up between Leket and Dankner – Goldman himself was there for only a few minutes – the former deputy minister was paid a symbolic NIS 230,000. In his testimony, Goldman claimed to have known nothing about the issue with which he was supposed to help Dankner.

On the same day, Ido Dissentshik, the former editor of the daily Maariv, also testified in court. Shmuel Dechner , the late state witness in the Holyland affair, hired Dissentshik in the 1990s to fast-track construction at the site.

Dissentshik’s advantage for the grandiose construction project lay in his ability to open doors to important people. Dissentshik’s fee was truly modest, considering the goodies lobbyists rake in nowadays: a mere $2,000 a month or so. “If some functionary at city hall was holding us up, I’d go to [Ehud] Olmert and say, ‘Do me a favor and give the kid a swift kick in the pants,’” Dissentshik said in his testimony to the police.

Dissentshik has served on Bank Hapoalim's board for many years. In his testimony, the following unbelievable story emerged. During the past decade, the National Insurance Institute insisted that Hapoalim owed it NIS 86 million. The bank’s attorneys had a hard time persuading the NII to back off from what they considered an inflated figure, when the bank's chiefs brainstormed. They engaged machers with close contacts to the NII, who succeeded where the best and brightest attorneys had failed. They also stuffed NIS 6.6 million into their pockets.

Not too long ago, TV’s Channel 10 also paid a tidy sum to two members of the Netanyahus' inner circle to soften the first couple’s fierce opposition to the existence of the rogue television station.

There's hardly a swamp in Israel without its tadpoles. They’re usually linked to people at the top and buy themselves – with very little work and sky-high salaries – villas and luxury cars at the public's expense. “If I were to bring in less than NIS 50,000 net a month, my wife would throw me out of the house,” said one hack in the ultra-Orthodox community a few years ago without the slightest irony.

Such hacks can now be found everywhere: at the ILA, at the Interior Ministry, and on the health-basket committee. The day when we have sophisticated go-betweens in the hallowed halls of justice and at the police is not far off. In Italy, they call it raccomandato. How do you say that in Hebrew?

Moti Kimche