How Netanyahu's criminal gang took over Israel - opinion

His harsh critics point out that Netanyahu is a very intelligent and educated man. The greatest mobsters in history have also been very intelligent. Meyer Lansky was the most prominent of them.

PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu attends a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem in May. (photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu attends a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem in May.
(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)
I was appointed by Yitzhak Shamir as a minister in the unity government of 1988. (Likud plus Labor alone numbered 79 MKs. Together with Shas and Agudat Yisrael the coalition numbered 90 MKs.) Shamir added Dan Meridor as justice minister and Roni Milo as environmental affairs minister. We were all in our early 40s, and the triple appointment left a great impression on the political system.
The person who was not appointed as a minister at the time was Benjamin Netanyahu. Shamir did not exactly admire the theatrical style, the manners of an American senator, with all the wishful scenery that were part of Bibi’s theater from his first day in party politics.
Yitzhak Shamir had no issue keeping Bibi as a deputy minister, David Levy’s deputy. With the cunning that Shamir did not lack, he thought there would be fierce competition between Bibi and Levy, whose public style, extreme sensitivity to his status and relative weakness at the time with international contacts were at odds with Bibi’s relative advantages.
Already then, an almost automatic rivalry was created between Bibi and me, Roni Milo and Meridor. Bibi began his race for the Likud leadership. The presence of three young men about his age in the public hierarchy (I am the oldest of the four) created an almost spontaneous tension between him and us. Bibi realized that the three new ministers were potential rivals on his way to the top.
Bibi asked to meet with me for lunch at the then-famous Shemesh Restaurant at the intersection of Ben Yehuda and Ben Hillel streets in Jerusalem. There was already by then a fairly common rumor about Bibi’s stinginess, so right at the beginning of the meeting I told him, as I did over the years on the occasions we met for dinner, that because I wanted it to have a pleasant atmosphere (and because it was important that he was relaxed), I would pay for both the meal and the tip. Bibi, of course, did not protest.
Netanyahu told me then that he knew that I was plotting with my friends, the Likud princes (Benny Begin was not yet at the threatening level, even though he was elected to the Knesset for the first time on the Likud list) to take over the leadership of the movement. He recommended that I take into account that he would fight for it and would not hesitate to fight with all his might against anyone who tried to stop him.
I appreciated his candor in this matter. I made it clear that I did not have concrete plans at the time, however, it was clear to me that he had ambitions and would certainly try to fulfill them, but that threats and intimidation did not make any impression on me. Although I paid at the end of the meal, as agreed, a pleasant meeting it was not.
I DO NOT ever remember a pleasant meeting with Netanyahu. I did not recognize in him – at any meeting, conversation, meal, casual exchange in the Knesset corridors or government offices – an iota of sincerity. He was articulate, sophisticated and tricky, an actor, a pretender, and a bully. This is how I felt at the first meeting between us a few years earlier. And that did not change in any other meeting.
His harsh critics also point out that Netanyahu is a very intelligent and educated man. The greatest mobsters in history have also been very intelligent. Meyer Lansky was the most prominent of them.
Netanyahu radiated the scent of unbridled bullying, foreignness and detachment of someone who does not count anyone else. This remains true not only for potential political rivals, but also for people who are closer, even family members, even actual offspring.
As he progressed in his career, as he climbed with admirable talent, Netanyahu thickened the shell of assistants, supporters and believers who helped him establish a hidden unit whose job was to gather intelligence, identify opponents, locate their weaknesses and, if necessary, hit them without hesitation, maliciously, cruelly and without restraint.
I remember one meeting in particular in 1994, when he was chairman of the Likud and a candidate for prime minister. Netanyahu told me that he believed he would be elected prime minister. In his opinion, four years would be enough for him to fulfill the goals he set for himself in that role. In the entire State of Israel, he said, there were two people who were capable of running the country. One was him, of course. The other, so he said, was me. Therefore, he suggested that at the end of one term he would transfer the position to me.
“Four years is enough for me. Afterwards, you come.” Surprising? Exciting? Amazing? No! It stunk. It was clear to me that Bibi appreciated that my status as mayor of Jerusalem, after a crushing victory over the mythical mayor Teddy Kollek, gave me a good starting position for future national leadership, and he wanted to neutralize me as a potential competitor by the use of bizarre plots.
I reassured Bibi that I had no special desire then to leave the municipality for the high command post in Balfour, and he could rest assured that I intended to serve in the municipality for at least two terms (10 years).
A few days later, in a casual conversation with Benny Begin, Benny told me that something very strange had happened to him. Netanyahu spoke with him and told him that the two of them – Benny and Bibi – were the only ones who could lead the country, and that he offered him a similar arrangement of rotation at the end of four years in office. To the best of my recollection, a similar conversation took place with Dan Meridor.
THIS CHEAP manipulation is the essence of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s personality, who is approaching the end of his fifth or sixth term (depending on how you count).
I am convinced that if we ask some of the younger generation in today’s Likud, including Gideon Sa’ar (depending on what period of course), we will hear similar stories from them.
What is the connection between all these memories and the saga that unfolded on the Uvda TV show in recent days?
This is the other part of the system that Netanyahu has built over the years. Like any head of a criminal family, he occasionally convened reconciliation and friendship meetings with opponents while using other tools to prepare for a stab to the back.
Money was never lacking for the system he built. Countless foundations that were eligible to receive donations from wealthy fans in America were the conduit through which Netanyahu funded the political assassinations he designed.
Thus, at the end of the Second Lebanon War, he took care to fund the demonstrations by the reservists, whose purpose was to remove me from my position. Most of the innocent reservists, who came out of the war frustrated, joined demonstrations equipped with expensive means that required a large financial investment. A special headquarters had been set up, made up entirely of Netanyahu’s “shadow cabinet.” They were headed by one former deputy chief of staff, Uzi Dayan, who failed to make the Likud list in 2009 and was appointed chairman of the Mifal Hapayis national lottery as a consolation prize. He is now trailing in the Likud faction in the Knesset.
Detectives, collectors of evidence, recorders and spokespersons under the guise of journalism, surveillance or investigations – all of these were maintained directly by elements subordinate to Netanyahu, or through organizations funded by his friends.
Uvda did not reveal anything new, but it did reveal what many in the political system already knew.
Bibi established a criminal family whose job it is to perpetuate his rule, to destroy his changing rivals, to eliminate the state systems that pose a threat to the continuation of his tenure, and now, also to his life as a free man. And now everyone sees.
Soon this will end.