Our Sons Are at Your Service, Just Don’t Touch the Cigars

The message from the probes into the Netanyahus is clear for any future leader: Do whatever you like, just don’t get tangled up with gourmet meals or pink champagne

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The weekly demonstration in Petah Tikva against the time it is taking the attorney general to make a decision over whether to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, September 9, 2017.
A protest against government corruption, September 9, 2017. The public likes its politicians to keep their hands clean – but only in some areas.Credit: Moti Milrod

So what did you think? That Israel isn’t a Third World country where corruption reigns on both the right and left? But look, it’s also a state governed by the rule of law and the people don’t close their eyes all the time. Congratulations! Israel is cleansing itself.

The law enforcement agencies have accused the prime minister’s wife of committing fraud to the tune of 359,000 shekels (about $102,000), which she used to buy meals from expensive restaurants and to employ chefs. Folks, Israel isn’t an Arab country, where such a sum would barely suffice for the tip left by some prince at a casino in a European capital. Here, propriety is abundant – even when it comes to the prime minister and his family.

Soon, the long arm of the law will probably reach the prime minister himself, on charges of taking another $100,000 – the cost of the extravagant gifts he is suspecting of receiving. Hooray for the only democracy in the Middle East! People are taking to the streets, politicians are furious, and newspapers are filled with articles and headlines about integrity and ethics.

The nation of Israel lives, and it’s cleaning out the stables. The non-Jews will yet learn from Israel what the rule of law is! What public opinion is! What a free press is that fights and investigates and spits fire!

But with all due respect, how did Mohammed Dahlan once put it? It’s all utter nonsense. Or to use an authentic Israeli idiom, it’s “nonsense in tomato juice.”

A public that doesn’t punish the prime minister for sending its sons, without a qualm and even with pride, to maintain a cruel and lengthy occupation; a public that doesn’t punish its prime minister for the 73 Israeli soldiers and civilians killed during the last war in Gaza (we’ll ignore the Palestinian victims here, since they don’t count); a public that ignores these failures and devotes the entirety of its great festival of purification to suspicions of embezzling a few hundred thousand shekels – that is a pathetic public. A public that gets angry only over trivialities.

A few years ago, we were blessed with a political system that ousted a prime minister for receiving cash-filled envelopes but never held him to account for quixotically embarking on a war that led to 166 Israeli fatalities (here, too, we’ll ignore the Lebanese and Palestinian victims, since they don’t count).

This vital, vibrant public doesn’t ask why we need to buy six submarines. And if it does ask, it’s not to save money for education and welfare, but to buy some other type of weaponry with the money saved.

Nobody asks why a huge part of the budget is devoted to security, even when the Arab world is preoccupied with itself and has no attention to spare for Israel. Here, we clean out all the stables, except those housing the sacred cows.

Thus, the message for any Israeli leader is clear: Do whatever you please, just don’t get tangled up with gourmet meals, fancy cigars and pink champagne. Our sons and daughters are at your service. They’ll man checkpoints in the occupied territories and conduct daring operations over the border, even in countries far from here. What’s important, dear leader, is that you have clean hands.

The vast purification project that’s sweeping the country over fancy meals on trays is at its peak. We’re all heroes when it comes to cigars and champagne. What an insult to the intelligence; what spitting in our collective faces. The “Hurricane Irma” now blowing through Israel is supposed to atone for our disgraceful silence over the crimes of the occupation, which has gone on for 50 years already.

And when it’s all over, when our consciences are clean and our suits pressed, the candidates to succeed Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister once he falls will be Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked. At least for now both have clean hands.

The people of Israel, on the right and also the left, can therefore sleep in peace. From now on, the oppression in the territories will be carried out with clean hands. The jailer who’s keeping an entire people in solitary confinement won’t be stealing from the public coffers.

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