When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stood up in front of the cameras on Wednesday afternoon and told Blue and White leader Benny Gantz that the way to handle possible blackmail from Iran is to reveal any sensitive information they have from hacking his phone, it brought to mind a time when Netanyahu seemed to take his own advice.
In 1993, in what has come to be known as the “Hot Tape Affair,” Netanyahu – who was running in the primaries for head of the Likud – appeared on Mabat, the main television news program at the time. He announced that “one man, surrounded by a not-small group of criminals,” was blackmailing him to drop out of the race with a sex tape of him and someone who is not his wife.
Netanyahu admitted that he had an affair, and apologized to his wife, Sara.
“We know who is behind this attempt,” he added. “Whoever uses methods of spying, recording and breaking in, is not worthy to be a leader and should be in prison.”
Netanyahu did not use a name, but many assumed that it was David Levy, who was running against him. Netanyahu apologized to Levy two years later.
A police investigation came up with nothing, and did not even find proof that a tape existed, or that Netanyahu had ever actually been blackmailed.
In fact, many in the political field believe that this had been a tactic by Netanyahu, perhaps to make Levy look bad and to make himself look like a victim rather than a husband cheating on a young wife with two small children at home.
Now, Netanyahu may be pulling the same trick – but on his rival, by talking about “sensitive information” on Gantz’s hacked phone that makes him susceptible to blackmail. This comes after days of rumors flying on the Internet – without any evidence to back them, it must be said – that the information on Gantz’s phone, which the prime minister demanded he reveal, is of the most intimate kind.
Likud MK Sharren Haskel took the implication one step further, saying on Likud TV: “Would you want there to be a situation in which an enemy of the state is holding the prime minister by the balls?”
Blue and White seems to be taking the high road when it comes to these rumors and innuendos.
Another option could be to respond with Netanyahu’s own words from Mabat on January 14, 1993: “This is a personal matter, and if I owe anyone anything – and I do owe something – it’s to my wife and my family and no one else, with all due respect. It’s personal, and it’ll stay personal.”