Opinion |

One Man Bears the Blame for Israel's Major Prison Break: Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset in August.
Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset in August.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

The series of failures that enabled six security prisoners to escape is the product of years of neglect and mismanagement. Preferring to buy long-term quiet, Israel’s political leadership allowed the terrorist organizations to manage the lives of their members inside the prison, which enabled the tunnel to be dug and the escape organized.

It was amazing to discover that Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants were allowed to remain together in the same cells, in spite of a 2014 recommendation by a committee investigating the causes of a previous attempted escape. It was no less amazing to learn that the generous supplementary budgets that the Israel Prison Service received over the past decade went to increased staff, salaries and pensions, not for technology. Israeli prisons are a generation behind the standard in the West. Even mobile telephone blockers were never activated because the political leadership wanted quiet.

When I say “political leadership,” I mean only one person: the previous prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who ruled with a high hand for 12 years. It was his policy in every area, including in the Prison Service, not to do anything, not to solve problems, not to make waves. To let time pass in the hope that the inevitable crisis would land on the desk of his successor. But, in spite of the supreme responsibility for the failures in the Prison Service, the blame has not stuck to him. The media doesn't discuss it. Netanyahu seems to be made of the finest Teflon – no dirt has stuck to him for this or for anything else.

Take, for example, his two-week vacation to a private Hawaiian island in a luxury hotel that costs $20,000 a night. If another Knesset member had traveled there at the height of a political battle to bring down the government, the foundations of the nation would shake.

If it turned out, as it did, that the owner of the island and hotel is billionaire Larry Ellison, a witness for the prosecution in Netanyahu's corruption trial, the story would have captured big headlines. Investigative reporters would have uncovered what Netanyahu spoke about with the witness and reported on the discount he received from the hotel. It didn’t happen. Netanyahu made it through this affair quietly, too. Teflon, did we say?

The day after he returned from Hawaii, Netanyahu came to the Knesset for a debate on the budget and to damn it for its harsh decrees, tax increases and harm to the farmers and the needy. It was a speech filled entirely with lies, fake news and deception.

The budget is not “horrible,” it is actually good. It proposes 27 different reforms in all areas of the economy, the type of which we have not seen in the last 12 years. These are reforms that promote business competition and will generate growth and employment.

They include rescinding duties on fruit and vegetable imports, raising the retirement age for women, privatizing kashrut supervision, investment in public transportation, ending the practice of issuing fixed-interest government bonds to pension funds, providing autonomy for school principals and waging a war on excessive regulation.

The budget doesn’t have any “decrees,” but actually provides for across-the-board spending increases, mostly for health and defense. Nor does it call for any “tax increases.” There is no change in the personal or corporate income tax rate or in the value-added tax. What there is are specific taxes being imposed for health and environmental reasons, such as traffic-congestion charges, a tax on disposable dishes and the like, and a tax on sugary drinks.

“The budget harms farmers,” said Bibi, and that’s another lie. The reforms not only end duties on imported fruits and vegetables but compensate farmers. Far from being harmed, the measures will make the sector more efficient and modern, and encourage them to switch to more profitable crops. The budget will not harm the needy, it will actually improve their situation.

As a result, we have reason to believe that the new Jewish year of 5782 will be better than those of the recent past. It will be a year of responsibility and normalcy. It will be better because Netanyahu is no longer in power. May last year and its troubles be over, and a year of blessings begin.

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