Yair, the elder son of Bibi and Sara, got his 10 minutes of prime time TV, which became front page headlines, then hours of reportage and commentary, little of it complimentary to him or his parents.

 
The occasion was a Friday night spent with two close friends, both the sons of politically connected economic tycoons, as they went from one strip club to another, in an armored car with government driver and Yair's bodyguard. Someone in the group had his smartphone in the record mode, and the results were broadcast as the lead item on prime time.
 
We heard Yair and his friends babbling on about the money they spent on strippers and prostitutes, with Yair expressing the view that one of his friends should not complain about  providing 400 shekels for Yair's entertainment, and Yair's other debts, insofar as Yair's father had arranged a sweetheart deal that provided his friend's father a $ 20 billion deal on the sale of natural gas to Israeli taxpayers and consumers.
 
This item is adding to the charges that Bibi has worked to provide his cronies with access to controversial government decisions.
 
It also reinforces the notion that Yair, like his mother and father, prefers to have others pay for his pleasures.
 
A day after Yair's fame, we read that Sara had asked one of Bibi's gift givers to pay for remodeling the family's private home.
 
Yair also spoke about providing a former girl friend, referred to as whore, to one or more of his companions..
 
Israel media described the conversations as rotten. The Washington Post headlined, "Drunken rant . . ." Feminist as well as anti-corruption activists ratcheted up to full fury.
 
An initial response from the Prime Minister's Office chided the network for violating Yair's privacy, and asserted that the kids were not serious in their conversation.
 
Yair apologized the next morning for misleading people by comments that were only good natured kidding, and influenced by too much alcohol. He claimed that the talk did not reflect the real him, or the high level of morality he had acquired from his parents. He also tried to defuse the problems for his father by claiming that he knew nothing about the gas deal, that his father had no personal connection with the gas entrepreneur, and did not know of Yair's friendship with the entrepreneur's son.
 
Dad came on air later with an apology for his alcohol sodden son, who could not have really meant what he said, insofar as it countered what he had learned at home about respect for women. Bibi also repeated Yair's claim that he played no favorites in the gas deal, and criticized the TV network for having paid for a recording that should never have been made.
 
Noticeable was the silence from other Likud politicians, perhaps wondering what the latest bit of Netanyahu sleaze will mean for them.
 
The actual event occurred more than two years ago, but timing of the story was anything but accidental. It came as Bibi was hard pressed to keep his coalition together to support a demand by ultra-Orthodox parties to tighten control over commerce on the Sabbath. The frolics of Yair and friends occurred on a Friday night, most likely requiring the work of a Jewish driver and Jewish guard, and could not be mistaken for a violation of the Sabbath.
 
The draft proposal passed next day by a margin of one vote. 
 
Wags are betting that it'll be neutralized by numerous holes left in the measure, as well as a lack of enforcement of what remains, and that it's a parliamentary farce adding to the problems of the Prime Minister.
 
The kid at the heart of the story is not a teenager whose conversation with friends reflected their initial encounters with money, alcohol, and sex. Yair is in his mid 20s, a graduate of the Hebrew University in International Affairs, who had an office job in the IDF arranged by Dad. He is not employed, and travels to nice places--from the mountains of Colorado to New Zealand--staying at homes owned by wealthy individuals who have received favors from the Prime Minister. The First Family has demanded that government guards accompany the First Child, even though officials responsible for such activity have opposed the idea. Among their arguments are that guards add to the visibility of Yair, as well as the private nature of his travels.
 
An unfriendly commentator opined that a kid so obviously stupid and attracted to the low life requires a guard to keep him out of mortal danger.
 
In contrast with the family's claim of moral purity, the owner of one strip club noted that Yair was a regular customer.
 
Among the questions that we can ask, but not answer, concern the capacity of the Prime Minister to operate on matters of state while up to his kishkes with what appear to be family and personal pathologies.
 
And for those concerned about parallels with that other great country-- 
 
The media blast about Yair came amidst American and international frenzy about Fire and Fury
 
And on the same evening news as Yair's adventure was a clip of a rousing speech by Oprah Winfrey.
 
A Washington Post headline, "Talk of Oprah running for president captivates Democrats."
 
From the Jewish Telegraph Agency, "Oprah Winfrey probably would be a pro-Israel president."
 
Just what America needs. Another well spoken star, with limited or no governmental experience, following in the pattern of Bill Clinton, the younger Bush, Barack Obama, and the current embarrassment. 
 
How long can America survive with such politics? How long can Israel survive with its version?
 
Comments welcome


-- 
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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