Israel Election: Is the circus finally coming to an end? - opinion

For better or worse, this circus will all come to an end tomorrow, unless, of course, we will face a sixth round of elections next May.

 IN PREPARATION for tomorrow’s Knesset election, stubs of papers are placed in ballot boxes with the names of parties from which voters will choose. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
IN PREPARATION for tomorrow’s Knesset election, stubs of papers are placed in ballot boxes with the names of parties from which voters will choose.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

When it was first announced that Channel 13 political commentator and investigative reporter Raviv Drucker was going to devote two programs of Hamakor (The Source) to Nir Hefetz’s secret recordings from the days when he served as then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s media adviser and spokesperson, I was one of those who felt that broadcasting these programs a week or two before the elections was unworthy. The fact that Channel 13 was reported to have paid Hefetz 300,000 shekels added to the discomfiture.

Hefetz has served as a state witness in Netanyahu’s case 4000 trial, where much of his evidence was based on such recordings. However, Drucker appeared to be less interested in trying to prove that Netanyahu was aware of the fact that his relations with media mogul Shaul Elovitch included elements of bribery – which was what the State Attorney’s Office was/is interested in – and more interested in such issues as the direct and blunt intervention of Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, and his eldest son, Yair, in state affairs and in directions contrary to those advised by the professional experts, and even contrary to Netanyahu’s own initial inclinations.

None of this is completely new but hearing Hefetz’s detailed description of several incidences of this and accompanying recordings is certainly very powerful. Since it cannot be ruled out that Netanyahu will be able to form his sixth government after tomorrow’s elections, it is very important that this will not be allowed to recur.

Neither Sara nor Yair are up for election and even though Bibi certainly has the right to discuss the affairs of the day with his wife and son, he should beware of allowing them to intervene in confidential decisions, especially since both seem to hold views that are frequently more in accord with those of MK Itamar Ben-Gvir than those of the Likud and both are prone to irregular behavior.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Yad Vashem's Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony, April 7, 2021.  (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Yad Vashem's Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony, April 7, 2021. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

If Bibi himself is not inclined to call Sara and Yair to order and the authorities are not inclined to take action, at least the general public should be aware of the problem, even if it means publishing detailed information before the elections. At least this information is true, unlike the besmirchment of the leading figures of the current government by the opposition since June 2021, which is rarely accompanied by detailed evidence and hard facts, rather than by unsubstantiated half-truths or outright lies that are repeated again and again as if this repetition will make them true.

Former soccer star blasts Israel's haredim

ANOTHER TV mini-scandal of the last two weeks concerns the unbridled pouring-out of libelous words about the Haredim by former footballer Eyal Berkovic on the Ofira and Berko Friday evening talk show on Channel 12. It seems as though every election campaign some secular Ashkenazi celebrity blurts out an outrageous statement about Mizrahim or Haredim.

It is not that the Mizrahim or Haredim do not issue insulting statements about secular Ashkenazim, it is simply that all these statements are superfluous and merely add to the divisive hate verbiage that is pushing us all in a very dangerous direction.

Berkovic was a football star in Israel and the UK from 1990-2006, and today plays the role of an Israeli-Ashkenazi version of Archie Bunker. His popularity is still enormous but his vulgarity and stupidity are frequently embarrassing.

What caused Berkovic to blurt out his speech about the Haredim was the emergence on the Israeli political scene of Rabbi Yitzhak Goldknopf, who will replace Ya’acov Litzman in the Knesset as the representative of Gur Hassidim, and stand at the head of United Torah Judaism in the 25th Knesset. In an interview with Channel 12, Goldknopf stated that “mathematics and English never advanced the country,” in an attempt to ward off attempts to condition public financing of haredi schools on their teaching a non-religious core curriculum.

Several days later, Goldknopf added another statement that rubbed the seculars the wrong way: “He who studies the Torah has a much more difficult time than he who goes to the front.”

“He who studies the Torah has a much more difficult time than he who goes to the front.”

Yitzhak Goldknopf

Berkovic reacted by spilling out everything that many seculars feel about the Haredim that they refuse to work, choose to continue to study religious studies instead, refuse to serve in the IDF, refuse to recognize the superiority of the law of the land over halacha, refuse to provide their children with a basic general education, and are only interested in sponging the state for funds to support the poor in the haredi community, who are poor because of the way of life that is dictated to them by their spiritual leaders.

The truth is that the situation is not black and white, and the reality is much more complex. Berkovic erred in speaking of all the haredim in a hateful tone, totally ignoring the fact that the non-haredi leadership has chosen accept the reality over the years for primarily political reasons.

Most recently, it was Netanyahu, who in reaction to the news that the current Government was negotiating with Belz Hassidim to increase the support of its primary schools for boys in return for their introducing the core curriculum, promised that as soon as he returns to power, Belz would receive full financing for their schools, without introducing the core curriculum.

No one suspects that Netanyahu does not want haredi children to study mathematics English and other secular subjects. All he is interested in is to muster 61 Knesset seats to form a government and the ends justify the means.

LAST SATURDAY evening, TV channels 11, 12 and 13 invited the leaders of all the parties running in tomorrow’s elections and likely to pass the qualifying threshold for short interviews. The same group of party leaders turned up at all three channels. The leaders who failed to turn up were Netanyahu, Lapid, Liberman and Goldknopf.

Netanyahu did turn up at his favorite channel 14 to a program that was run by Maggie Tabibi, the channel’s 26-year-old evening news broadcaster. Netanyahu appeared to have gotten over the hoarseness he was reported to be suffering from but was short-tempered and nervous.

Besides belittling and insulting Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Netanyahu repeated several times that Lapid’s main goal in the election was to turn his party into the largest party (in its last poll toward the elections, Channel 13 gave the Likud 30 Knesset seats and Yesh Atid 27) so that he would be called upon first to try to form the new government. Netanyahu kept repeating that the only way to stop Lapid is for all Likud supporters to come out to vote.

Tabibi tried to introduce some questions but Netanyahu kept warding her off and actually scolded her “maybe you should try to listen to someone with experience and learn something.” Suddenly, Tabibi said, “Thank you very much Mr. Netanyahu,” but Bibi kept talking. She repeated again, “Thank you, Mr. Netanyahu.”

As Bibi was whisked out of the studio, the reason for the haste became apparent: MK Itamar Ben-Gvir had walked into the studio and Channel 14 apparently wanted to avoid the embarrassment of Kfar Chabad two weeks ago, when Ben-Gvir was forced off the stage by Netanyahu’s entourage.

For better or worse, this circus will all come to an end tomorrow, unless, of course, we will face a sixth round of elections next May.

The writer worked in the Knesset for many years as a researcher and has extensively published journalistic and academic articles on current affairs and Israeli politics. Her most recent book Israel’s Knesset Members – A Comparative Study of an Undefined Job is published by Routledge.