When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made his surprising appearance on the Channel 12 Saturday evening news, I had already written my article for today, in which I dealt with the new information regarding the shares in the steel company SeaDrift that used to be owned by Netanyahu’s cousin Nathan Milikovsky. Netanyahu purchased the shares in 2007, when he was leader of the opposition, and sold them three years later at a 700% profit, for around NIS 16 million – a year and a half after returning to office as prime minister.
The fact that SeaDrift was sold in 2010 to GrafTech International – a graphite electrodes corporation that, inter alia, sells its services and products to the shipyards of Thyssenkrupp (the German corporation named in Case 3000, the submarines scandal) – immediately raised rumors that the new information somehow connects Netanyahu to Case 3000, in which another one of his cousins, Attorney David Shimron, is implicated.
However, it seems as though these rumors – which Benny Gantz’s Blue and White Party pounced upon as if it had found a treasure – are groundless. What will be investigated by the relevant authorities are the following issues: whether Netanyahu had truthfully reported the purchase and sale of his shares to the Israeli income tax authorities; the fact that he had failed to mention the business aspect of his relations with Milikovsky, which he had previously presented as largely philanthropic in nature in connection with Case 1000; and his request for permission to accept a large contribution from Milikovsky for his legal expenses.
My original article also dealt with the case of Gantz’s mobile phone, which according to Israeli intelligence sources had been broken into by Iranian intelligence. However, it was Netanyahu – not the Shin Bet Israel Security Agency – who revealed this information to the public for purely political motives, adding that the information intercepted by the Iranians included embarrassing personal details that could enable them to blackmail Gantz if he were to become prime minister. Netanyahu called upon Gantz to reveal the nature of the embarrassing information that had been found in his phone.
My article then argued that a man landing from Mars might conclude that these two issues are what Israel’s approaching elections are all about, but that in fact these were the red herrings of the election campaign, not the real issue of what sort of government Israel will get after the elections. The question is whether Israel’s next government will be one that introduces two things: a new social and welfare agenda that will also try to bridge the schisms in Israeli society that Netanyahu has helped feed in the course of his current term as prime minister, and a new foreign policy that will not ignore the liberal democracies that supported Israel in its formative years and beyond, but are today critical of its policy vis-à-vis the Palestinians and the occupied territories.
The alternative is a government very similar to the current right-wing/ religious government, probably more extreme than it, but largely geared toward Netanyahu’s efforts to ward off being indicted.
THEN CAME Netanyahu’s surprising interview on Channel 12, which he himself initiated – with the excellent TV presenter Keren Marziano taking the lead, shooting questions at Netanyahu and preventing him from hijacking the interview. The usually dominant reporter Amit Segal sat sheepishly silent for most of the interview, only occasionally getting in the odd question.
Netanyahu, who flew to the United States soon after the interview, arrived at the studio in a belligerent mood, attacking and mocking Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid, Moshe Ya’alon and Gabi Ashkenazi with all the derivatives of the Hebrew words for liars and lies. He mocked them for their alleged ignorance in business, economics and all other matters of state, and for their alleged defeatist, leftist weakness. When asked whether he would agree to appear in a TV showdown with Gantz, he joked about whether he was being asked to confront a candidate for only half a term, or whether he was also expected to confront Lapid.
His anger against the four was largely directed at their suggestion that he had made a profit off the submarine deal due to his SeaDrift shares, at the expense of Israel’s security, which is apparently really an unfounded allegation – but so are most of the allegations made by Netanyahu against all of his political rivals. He declared that he will be suing all four of them on charges of libel.
On the issue of Gantz’s mobile phone, Netanyahu kept harping on the need for Gantz to tell the public what was on his phone that the Iranians might be able to use to blackmail him – but he played dumb when asked how he got his information about what was on Gantz’s phone, claiming that he had received his information from Channel 12.
Netanyahu’s most surprising revelation in the interview was that it was he personally who approved the German sale of submarines to Egypt, and that he deliberately kept defense minister Ya’alon, then-chief of staff Gantz and the commander of the navy in the dark, “because there are some secrets one does not tell everyone.”
Speaking of the accusations that he was really an anti-Mizrahi racist, Netanyahu denied the allegation and mocked Labor Party head Avi Gabbay, who as a Moroccan who “made it,” frequently refers to the inferior status of the Mizrahim in the Likud leadership. “Another pretender for the premiership,” he said in a flippant tone.
When asked whether after the elections, if he wins, he plans to pass the “French Law” in order to avoid being indicted for as long as he remains prime minister, he once again played dumb, claiming that he had never thought of this option. He said that he will not be indicted, simply because after the hearing which he will receive after the elections, nothing will remain of any of the charges against him.
Asked whether if he wins he will consider asking the Blue and White Party to join his new government, Netanyahu answered that he will first create a coalition with his natural partners. If there is room and the party agrees to accept the basic guidelines of his government, he might consider bringing them in, but he was doubtful whether this would happen.
Marziano then scolded Netanyahu for the mocking, done in the Likud election propaganda, of the disfigured, scarred face of Channel 12 commentator Amnon Abramowitz, who was wounded in action during the Yom Kippur War and received the chief of staff’s commendation for his bravery. Netanyahu complained in return that none of the commercial TV channels criticized the portrayal of his family “as pigs... pigs, pigs,” to which Marziano replied that there is difference between satire and party propaganda.
Finally, Netanyahu kept complaining that all of the commercial channels bestow on his rivals long and “caressing” interviews, but are tough on him – to which Marziano replied that he hadn’t agreed to come to any studio for an interview for more than four years, suggesting that he has no one to blame but himself.
I must say that I watched the interview once again after watching it live, and that while Netanyahu certainly gave a refined performance (as usual), he convinced me that he is a dangerous man who has no inhibitions, no shame, no respect for anyone who disagrees with him and no brakes. He really believes that he is God’s chosen leader of Israel and that before him, Israel was a backward country.
He is not and Israel was not.
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