Opinion |

The Revenge of the Caretaker at Netanyahu’s Residence

Public protests – like those launched by disgruntled chief caretaker Meni Naftali – endanger Bibi because the police, attorney general and judges want to know that much of the public supports them

Nehemia Shtrasler
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Protesters in front of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit's home in Petah Tikva, August 5, 2017.
Protesters in front of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit's home in Petah Tikva, August 5, 2017.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Nehemia Shtrasler

If Benjamin Netanyahu could have guessed where Meni Naftali would lead him, Bibi would have gotten the sun and the moon for him – anything to get him off his back. If he knew that the small demonstrations in Petah Tikva that Naftali, the disgruntled former chief caretaker of the prime minister’s residence, launched a year ago would morph into a giant protest in downtown Tel Aviv, he would have invited Naftali at the beginning of the protests to sit down with him.

And he would have said: You want twice as much severance pay? Take it. You want a tenured civil service position? All right. You want to be the deputy director general in the Prime Minister’s Office? No problem. You want to be health minister? Granted – after all, Yaakov Litzman doesn’t understand health more than you do. The only condition: Get off my back. Stop demonstrating against me. I understand the power of public opinion in a democracy.

Indeed, Netanyahu understands this power well. It’s not for nothing that he regularly conducts opinion polls to check which way the wind is blowing and to change his positions accordingly. He knows that in a democracy, that elusive thing called public opinion ultimately determines the fate of every politician.

So once he understood the power of the Tel Aviv demonstration he decided to do everything to prevent the next one – planned for this Saturday night. So he asked one of his Rottweilers, Likud's David Amsalem, to amend the bill to shut up the police so that it wouldn’t apply to investigations into Netanyahu. So he accepted the recommendation by Likud's Zeev Elkin and asked that the vote be postponed by a week. Is that enough to dampen the demonstration? We’ll know this weekend.

Anyway, I wouldn’t be surprised if Netanyahu finally buried the police-silencing bill. Who needs it once it doesn’t apply to him? Just as Culture Minister Miri Regev taught us: “What good’s a broadcast corporation if we don’t control it?”

A continuation of the demonstrations on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard endangers Netanyahu because the police, the attorney general and the judges all need a tailwind to rule against the prime minister. They want to know that a significant portion of the public supports them. They want to feel part of a large tribe. So mass demonstrations are important.

Special consideration should also be given to former Supreme Court President Meir Shamgar, who said Netanyahu should resign because he accepted gifts. According to close associates of former Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner, she thinks Netanayhu will end up in jail because of the affair.

A poll by the daily Maariv over the weekend also indicates the change in public opinion. Bibi suffered two blows in that survey: Gideon Sa’ar surpassed him in Likud and Yair Lapid gained ground on him.

You can see the importance of public opinion through the eyes of three Kulanu MKs who announced that they would vote against the police bill. It’s the result of pressure by their constituents, who couldn’t believe that Kulanu chief Moshe Kahlon betrayed them by supporting a corrupt bill. Likud also showed signs of fissures when MKs Yehudah Glick and Oren Hazan objected to the timing of the vote on the bill.

Public opinion even influenced the opposition. It had been a pathetic joke until the Rothschild demonstration. The low point came when 17 opposition MKs didn’t show up for the first reading of the Bibi bill. Now they've turned into warriors. Public opinion won’t let them repeat the disgrace.

You need to understand that the Rothschild demonstrations didn’t begin because of the bill to silence the police. They started first and foremost because of the suspicions against Netanyahu in the extravagant gifts affair. They started following Netanyahu’s tongue-lashing of the police and the justices, and also because of the criminal characters surrounding him, chiefly Coalition Chairman David Bitan, who is also suspected of taking a bribe. They came because they want to change the government. We're sick of you corrupt people.

Meni Naftali sees all the commotion he created and smiles to himself. He served his revenge on a cold platter, even frozen, until it hurts.