Opinion

Netanyahu Is Influenced by His Son - and It's Dangerous

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with his son Yair at the Western Wall, March 28, 2015
Thomas Coex / AFP

“Yair convinced himself, and his father, that he’s the brilliant mind – I’m not kidding, it’s not funny, don’t laugh – that brought about the victory in the (2015) election.” For some reason, the investigator who was taking evidence from Nir Hefetz, the state witness in the Bezeq Telecom case, continued to laugh.

“Two or three days after the victory,” continued Hefetz, “Bibi convened the closest team that worked with him in the election victory and made the following astonishing statement: “‘There’s one other mind, aside from me, who brought this victory’ – and we all looked right and left to see who the lucky one was.” Hefetz and the investigator is once again rolling with laughter.

Bibi went gunning for his only real rivalHaaretz Weekly Ep. 66

“And then he lifted his finger like that and said: ‘Yair.’ We looked at one another in amazement. From that moment on, Yair took credit for the video clip of the Arabs boarding the buses [on the way to the polls].”

Most of us relate to Yair Netanyahu, Bibi’s son, as a disgusting tweeting machine. But it’s far from being confined to tweets.

“Immediately after the election Yair Netanyahu in effect becomes the central axis on all levels, personal, political and governmental,” continued Hefetz. “Yair, in a gradual process, totally took over his father’s hasbara [PR] policy. … He is very, very obsessive, repeats messages hundreds of times until your head is about to explode. He simply drove Sara [Netanyahu] crazy, but it’s like brainwashing for his father too. It’s impossible to minimize the dramatic nature of the influence. This thing dominates everything. There would have been no Case 4000 [the Bezeq Telecom affair] without Yair.”

Why did Yair get involved with Walla, a Bezeq-owned news website, of all things, wondered the investigator. “Would you like to hear what I said to my wife about that? That he’s mega cuckoo.” Hefetz told the investigators that the influence of Sara and Yair is reflected in, among other things, Netanyahu’s decision to leave the Communications Ministry in his own hands.

Another state witness, former Communications Minister director general Shlomo Filber, had similar things to say. “As far as Yair and Sara are concerned, they appointed me, and in addition – for them there are no regulatory restrictions. For example, Yair’s demand to close the Al Jazeera channel and Sara’s demand to close the Public Broadcasting Corporation, and now go explain that it’s against the law.”

I wasn’t a big fan of Netanyahu’s even before Yair started playing a key role in his decision making. For years it was hard to convince people of the extent to which Mrs. Netanyahu often turns the decisions of the prime minister into a circus. The process of Yair-ization undergone by the prime minister has made him really dangerous. Netanyahu Jr. has no limits, holds extremist right-wing opinions and manages to influence his father.

In the investigation, Netanyahu Sr. tried to downplay his son’s influence. “Yair, he hasn’t the faintest idea. He doesn’t know anything. He doesn’t understand these matters, he has nothing to do with these matters. He has his own worldview and it doesn’t always accord with knowledge of the facts, to put it mildly.”

Netanyahu, it turns out, knows his son well, but just as with his wife, he lets the young man “whose worldview does not accord with knowledge of the facts” influence him.

This is what Filber said during his investigation: “I received a phone call from the prime minister reprimanding me about all the issues that weren’t taken care of, that Yair wanted taken care of, such as Al Jazeera, etc.” In other words, Netanyahu contacted the director general of his ministry to confirm the implementation of his son’s insane requests. The next day, said Filber, Netanyahu already dismissed the matter with a wave of his hand.

So it’s not just Yair’s tweets – it’s the Public Broadcasting Corporation, and Al Jazeera, and closing Channel 10, and keeping the communications portfolio, and Walla and Bezeq, and, in another instance, a response to some declaration by Turkey’s Erdogan. Sara Netanyahu at least refrained from interfering in certain matters. Yair interferes in everything.

What will happen if Netanyahu wins Monday and Yair demands that he fire the attorney general? Will Netanyahu wave his hand again, or will he bring the draft proposal to the government? Scary as it sounds, I really don’t rule out the second possibility.