Analysis: Never trust a politician

Israel's political press corps has been burned too many times lately by politicians who have said one thing over and over again and then done exactly the opposite.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
December 11, 2005 18:34
3 minute read.
silvan shalom looks pensive or sorry 298.88

shalom pensive 298.88. (photo credit: AP [file])

 
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When Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom opened the floor to questions at his Tel Aviv press conference on Sunday, it was no surprise that the first five questions he was asked were all variations of the same thing. Will you follow Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Minister-without-Portfolio Tzahi Hanegbi to Kadima? If you lose the Likud race to former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, will you shift to Kadima? And so on. Shalom answered over and over again that the Likud was his home and he intended to stay in the party. Perhaps in the past, a politician like Shalom would have been given the benefit of the doubt. But Israel's political press corps has been burned too many times lately by politicians who have said one thing over and over again and then done exactly the opposite. The politicians have cried wolf so many times that they can no longer be believed by anyone and the public is perfectly happy to see the press devour them. It started in August when former prime minister Ehud Barak, who had called himself a "marathon runner," stopped running for Labor leader. Now the marathon runner isn't even running for the Knesset. Barak might have made money from his speaking engagements in the United States but he didn't import any accountability. Sadly, Barak set a precedent for untrustworthy politicians, who learned from him how short a memory the public has. Labor MK Matan Vilna'i, who has a reputation as one of the cleanest men in Israeli politics, started campaigning for the Labor leadership a full year ahead of the November 9 primary. He insisted time and time again that he was in it for good. Over a period of months, Vilna'i consistently denied rumors that he would quit the race, even when polls showed that a victory was far out of reach. He even started using a new slogan a week before the race only to take a bad gamble three days before the primary and endorse loser Shimon Peres. The next politician to mislead the press was Likud MK Uzi Landau, a politician considered so honest that it was said of him that he didn't even know how to lie. But last Sunday, his advisers denied a factual report that Landau would quit the Likud leadership race the following day. Landau claimed that he had only decided to quit at 5 a.m. on Monday morning. But his spokesmen could have let on that an agreement to endorse Netanyahu was almost finished at the time when they were issuing their denials. The headlines printed on Monday said Uzi Landau was staying in the race. Three days later, the headlines said Hanegbi was staying in the Likud. Both times the politicians called a press conference to announce the opposite, and the reporters looked stupid. But Hanegbi's decision to join Kadima shouldn't have surprised anyone, because if the Mr. Clean of Labor and the Mr. Clean of Likud can lie to the press, then Mr. Constantly Investigated obviously can too. Which brings us to Mofaz. He not only lied to the press, he lied to thousands of Likud members who were planning on supporting him. And he lied to himself. Mofaz sent a letter promising to stay in the party to 129,000 Likud members, some of whom received the letter on Sunday after he had already left. In a lame excuse, he blamed his departure on some 15,000 Likud activists brought to the party by Moshe Feiglin, who he forgot to mention were in the Likud before he joined it. "This decision has nothing to do with my credibility," Mofaz said at a Tel Aviv press conference, where a pack of reporters ate him for lunch.

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