Here’s an amazing story that comes from the files on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s investigation. Netanyahu, as we know, regularly exploited the deep pockets of Australian billionaire James Packer. He would use his swimming pool, even when Packer wasn’t in Israel, took cigars and food, and in general acted in Packer’s home as if he owned the place.
At a certain stage Packer was undergoing a severe personal crisis. Netanyahu managed to persuade him to come to Israel for some rehabilitation and therapy. In charge of the intensive rehabilitation package prepared for him was Hadas Klein, Arnon Milchan’s assistant, who also worked for Packer.
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At a certain point both Milchan and Netanyahu started to pressure Klein to tell them how Packer was doing. Klein refused, citing medical confidentiality. Netanyahu told Milchan that he, in his place, would do what he had done to Yisrael Katz: Give her an ultimatum, and if she won’t give you the information, fire her. Klein still refused. Fire me, she told Milchan.
The pressure continued. Netanyahu asked to speak to the psychiatrist treating Packer. Klein couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Milchan explained that Netanyahu had told Packer some sensitive things, and he had to make sure that the billionaire wasn’t giving away all his secrets. What secrets had the prime minister revealed to the unstable Australian billionaire?
In any case, Netanyahu got the phone number and called the psychiatrist. She was shocked, refused to cooperate, and was even bold enough to ask the prime minister how dare he even ask. Netanyahu answered that he often checks with his friends’ doctors on how they’re doing, and that the doctors always answer him. And she indeed answered, saying she wouldn’t even confirm that Packer was her patient.
So this is another story demonstrating that Netanyahu’s limits of propriety are pretty blurred. He’s long forgotten what basic rules of behavior are. He doesn’t feel any commitment to a political agreement that he may have signed two minutes before. He can say that we have to pass a biannual state budget immediately and ask Benny Gantz to join him, and a minute afterward explain that we cannot pass a budget, but then when we need a budget, what can you do, to pass a budget you need four months. Ah, but then he can try to pass a law that will enable the budget to be passed within two weeks. All of which, as we saw, didn’t get us a budget in the end.
Netanyahu’s lack of limits expressed itself in the most blatant fashion with his efforts to intervene in the judicial system. During his negotiations with Gantz he was trying to influence the way Supreme Court justices, the state prosecutor and the attorney general would be chosen.
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A few years ago it would have been hard to imagine a situation in which a criminal suspect would get anywhere near these issues. When the High Court of Justice was hearing a petition asking that he be disqualified from serving as prime minister, Netanyahu promised that he wouldn’t deal with these matters. After the court agreed he could serve, he refused to sign on a conflict-of-interest agreement.
Who was supposed to torpedo this unbelievable situation? Not Gantz, but Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit. Previous attorneys general wouldn’t have hesitated to take a stand during political negotiations, to tell a prime minister to avoid this appointment or that agreement, which would be difficult to defend from a legal standpoint.
But Mendelblit would remain silent, claiming that these were only talks and he would respond to the results when they came. But if there had been results, it would have been too late. The High Court has also been doing the “three monkeys” act. Give us an explanation, they would tell the state; get back to us with an answer. How about issuing a decisive order?
The High Court, its president, Esther Hayut, the prosecution, Mendelblit, all have been subjected to brutal, ugly attacks. There’s no reason to envy them. But if there’s one thing they understand from their own life experience: Silence and capitulation is no way to stop a serial attacker.