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Netanyahu's Corruption Is the Least of Israel's Moral Failings

חנין מג׳אדלי - צרובה
Hanin Majadli
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Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Knesset, last week.
Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Knesset, last week.Credit: RONEN ZVULUN/Reuters
חנין מג׳אדלי - צרובה
Hanin Majadli

That old familiar song, better known as “the Netanyahu trial,” is playing again, and this time with the cherry in the champagne: Case 1000.

It's not all about Bibi: Election Overdose returns

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Let us see what we have here: Hadas Klein, aide to Arnon Milchan, bought cigars for the Netanyahus at a store called Cabinet, paying 6,000-8,000 shekels ($1,700-$2,300) per month for this; Sara asked Klein to provide her with toiletry products that can only be purchased abroad; at Sara’s request or demand, Klein bought jewelry for her, including a beautiful necklace and ring; Benjamin Netanyahu helped Milchan with his visa for the United States in return for cigars, champagne and luxury gifts for the home. These are pretty graphic scenes.

And now for the criticism: hedonism, bribery, breach of trust, unethical, immoral, improper. “This kind of thing should shake the foundations of any normal country,” cry the guardians of democracy and governmental correctness. What holy wrath. Generally, I’m rather indifferent to the public outrages that so ruffle the feathers of the country’s Ashkenazi elite, but I actually find the tales of Netanyahu’s governmental corruption quite amusing. Particularly the way in which they are presented: as if this is what hurts Israel’s standing as a properly run country. It’s ludicrous and designed to broadcast a false show of “normality”: See, in Israel we have a civil society and a lively democracy and a strong press that acts as a “gatekeeper” and fights against corrupt politicians and holders of high office who abuse their positions.

All the fuss being made over the champagne and cigars only heightens my suspicion that the issue that truly matters to the Jewish center-left is ethics, or, to be more precise: Netanyahu’s lack of them. Not the occupation, not apartheid, not the nation-state law, not the extension of the emergency regulations in the territories, not settlement construction. None of these ignite anything near the level of emotion that Netanyahu’s corruption elicits from the members of this camp. In their way of thinking, Israel’s reputation, such as it is, rises and falls on tales of corruption: how much money he guzzled away in champagne, how many boxed meals he ordered, how many bouquets of flowers he bought for his wife at taxpayer expense.

Do we hear a similar fuss from this camp, or similar expressions of horror, when a Palestinian is stabbed to death by a settler, who is soon released to house arrest? Or over the reports of Palestinians being killed by IDF fire? Or over the killing of a Palestinian journalist? Or over the attempted ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in the south Hebron Hills?

All of these things are genuinely terrible, but who really cares? To judge by the decibel level of the outrage, the center-left believes that the thing which will really ruin Israel is not the human rights violations and crimes committed in its name against another people, but Netanyahu’s corruption. Sanity and healing are only possible when he is not in power, even when his legacy (on the fateful issues, at least) is perpetuated by the one who follows him, and the one who follows after that – the darling of the liberal and enlightened camp.

Governmental corruption is indeed a problem. And it should bother every citizen who wants to live in a properly run country. Anti-corruption crusaders are often heroes who risk their careers so that others will live in a better place. But when deep moral problems are causing the whole business to collapse, it’s hard to get all worked up over champagne, cigars and jewelry. It mainly attests to hypocrisy: Occupation and apartheid are the biggest and most serious displays of corruption. Not financial, but moral. Moral corruption, which makes the lives of millions of people unbearable. But these subjects elicit no more than a yawn from most Israelis. Right before they doze off, they change the channel to Hadas Klein. Now there’s some action, that’s more like it. And this is when everyone starts clutching their heads in disbelief.

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