Ehud Olmert to 'Post': Regev's extortion by intimidation

Regev, like Benjamin Netanyahu, like Miki Zohar, like Amir Ohana and all the other members of their Likud gang, came to the studio to insult, abuse and, if necessary, make threats.

TRANSPORTATION MINISTER Miri Regev resorted to making threats that took advantage of the power she wields from her position in the government. This is a criminal offense, and it needs to be stopped.  (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
TRANSPORTATION MINISTER Miri Regev resorted to making threats that took advantage of the power she wields from her position in the government. This is a criminal offense, and it needs to be stopped.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
The confrontation between Transportation Minister Miri Regev and former soccer star Eyal Berkovic (aka Berko) was not surprising.
After saying “bulls***” to artists at the annual conference when she was of culture and sport minister; after cursing her former IDF commander, chief of staff Dan Halutz, who appointed her IDF spokesperson; and after countless confrontations that highlight her rudeness and unbridled aggression, it is clear that Regev did not go to Ofira Asayag and Berko’s TV studio to be nice and fair, to present a certain position or to offer a point of view that differs from that of the interviewers. Regev, like Benjamin Netanyahu, like Miki Zohar, like Amir Ohana and all the other members of their Likud gang, came to the studio to insult, abuse and, if necessary, make threats.
And that’s exactly what she did. Berko has said on a number of occasions in interviews, a few of which I’ve seen, that his lifelong goal is to become the national soccer team manager. He has said in the clearest possible way that he would give up his entire career in media if he were appointed coach of the national team. 
And I totally get it – he was one of the most talented players that grew up within the Israeli sport scene. And not just on Israeli teams, but also in the UK. His mother, of course, thought he was the best player of all time. Perhaps. I’m not an expert in this area. I was never a fan of the clubs Berkovic played for, either in Israel or Britain. 
I’ve been a die-hard Beitar Jerusalem fan all my life. Another team I’m also a huge fan of outside of Israel is Manchester United. Although Berkovic didn’t play on either of these teams, I never missed an opportunity (when it was possible) to watch him play in Israel or in the UK. Even when I was prime minister, I would watch his games, admiring his skillful moves. Who can forget the fantastic goal he scored for his mediocre club (Southampton) in that amazing game he won against Manchester United at Old Trafford? 
Berkovic was one of the best soccer players on an international level. Should he be picked to coach the national soccer team? I really don’t know. Let’s leave that decision to the experts. On and off the field, Berkovic could sometimes be feral, cheeky, aggressive and generally unpleasant. We all forgave him for this, though, because he provided every soccer fan with magical moments of incredible ability, rare playing intelligence, and the ability to foresee what was going to happen next on the field a few seconds before most of the other players. 
He pulled lots of crazy stunts, which made him the subject of arguments, confrontations and rivalries among other players, coaches, managers and team owners. Throughout his career, though, there was one constant: He always said exactly what he thought and never hesitated to be direct and genuine, even if it didn’t make for pleasant dialogue. 
Ever since he teamed up with Ofira and became a well-known TV personality, his standing has been growing. I recall the days when he would speak about Netanyahu with admiration. But when Bibi’s actions were exposed, bringing him shame, Berkovic did not become an ardent Bibi supporter. His calculations of usefulness, or a desire to be associated with the Right and rub shoulders with ministers and people in power did not attract him. I recall an interview he did with Benny Gantz on the eve of one of the elections (it’s hard to remember which one since we’ve had so many in the last two years) at the end of which he shook Gantz’s hand and promised to vote for him.
But when he was disappointed with Gantz, Berkovic did not hesitate to express his opinion in a sharp, firm and unhesitating manner. What was different about Ofira and Berko’s program was that both of them were always unequivocally direct and they always spoke from the heart. 
That’s exactly the difference between them and Netanyahu’s gang, which is known to focus on honor, power and money. When a member of the gang speaks, you know it’s practically a given that they don’t genuinely believe what they just said – someone else is dictating to them through text messages, tweets  and Facebook posts that originate on Balfour Street or in the leader of the gang’s theatrical performances. 
The hundreds of thousands of viewers who were watching Ofira and Berko’s show had not come there to listen to Regev sling insults and curses. It’s true that Ofira and Berko have developed their own unique antagonistic style, and sometimes they are insulting and annoying, but at least they sound authentic and their remarks reflect views shared by many Israelis. 
Still, the rampage Regev went on last Friday broke all previous records. This time, she didn’t just engage in violent aggression. Regev resorted to making threats that took advantage of the power she wields from her position in the government. This is a criminal offense, and it needs to be stopped. 
It goes far beyond soccer coaches. What we’re dealing with now is a list of vital appointments to the country’s most important and sensitive institutions. The police commissioner, the attorney-general, judges of the district and supreme courts, director-generals and important division heads of government ministries. Especially, but not limited to, the Finance Ministry. 
Everyone who sees themselves as a candidate for one of the positions located on the current public map of Israel understands – must understand – what their most basic requirement is: To flatter, to obey and to accept the dictates of the gang. 
We are beginning to see how this message is seeping into the brains of the people holding the most senior positions in the current government. We’ve already seen how the attorney-general’s office (for the sake of full disclosure – I myself find fault with some of the senior executives in this office, especially those who ran the office in the past. I never hid my claims and neither did I attempt to conceal my harsh criticism, which in my opinion was justified) is beginning to exhibit signs of weakness and a reluctance to face the inevitable need for confrontation, which the prime minister is imposing on them. 
Police officers, most of whom are normative people, are beginning to show signs of laxity. The message coming out of Balfour – that the protesters are “left-wingers,” anarchists who yearn for the destruction of the country – is too often leading the police to resort to unnecessary violence.  
The clip of the policeman handcuffing the girl on the Tel Aviv beach because she refused to identify herself is particularly disturbing. He perhaps was justified to fine her, or even to take her to the station for questioning, but did he have to handcuff her? Was she a violent murderer?
Of course, this was not the only example showing the police’s lack of good judgment. There have been quite a few like this one in recent weeks, and we still have not yet reached the pinnacle of the demonstrations. Instead of thousands, there will be tens of thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of people out on the streets protesting.
I’m sure some of them will fail to comply with current restrictions, but the demonstrations are not a threat to democracy. They are democracy at its best. The strongest democracies allow the right to freedom of expression, freedom of movement, full equality for all citizens and the right to protest and oppose the government. 
Former US president Ronald Reagan used to tell jokes about the difference between the US and Soviet Russia’s forms of governance. In one, an American says that in his country, any citizen can go to the White House and protest against his president. The Russian then replies that the same is true in Russia – every Russian citizen can go to the Kremlin and express criticism of the American president. 
Netanyahu and his gang would prefer to have a political regime here in Israel like the one in Russia as portrayed in Reagan’s joke. Anyone who protests against the imperial family will not receive an appointment, will be fired and if necessary expelled.
I believe that the clear and sometimes boisterous voice of Ofira and Berko will signal the direction the public debate in Israel takes in the coming days. 
The threats, temptations and extortion attempts against public officials will hopefully be investigated by police if and when the new inspector general who is about to be appointed will observe the law as he is obligated to do. 

The writer was the country’s 12th prime minister.