Israel's politicians need to gain some class in their conduct

Regev once held the position of culture minister. Based on her televised outburst, it would appear she is sorely lacking in culture.

Miri  Regev (photo credit: REUTERS)
Miri Regev
(photo credit: REUTERS)
One of the criteria to be a minister in the government of a democratic country should be presenting oneself with dignity and decorum.
Especially in this time of stress induced by the past seven months of pandemic and lockdowns, it’s incumbent on decision-makers to lead the way by exuding calmness, empathy and dignity in their public dealings and appearances.
Unfortunately, in Israel, dignity and decorum have never been part of the job requirements for government ministers. If that wasn’t clear enough, the televised display by Transportation Minister Miri Regev over the weekend proved the point unmistakably and lowered the bar for discourse in the country.
Appearing Friday on the popular Channel 12 talk show Ofira and Berkovic, hosted by legendary soccer star Eyal Berkovic and TV personality Ofira Asayag, Regev exploded in a verbal outburst that descended to threats and the basest of language.
Taking offense at Berkovic for his having labeled, the week before, Regev’s Likud Party a “criminal organization” due to its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, she demanded an apology and yelled at the former soccer star that he would “never be the coach of Israel’s national team” unless he apologized to “the one-and-a-half million Likud members whom you called ‘members of a criminal organization.’”
Berkovic, in a calmer demeanor, clarified that he was referring to “only you and your whole crew. It’s not connected at all to the voters,” he said, but to “Bibi and around five of his foot soldiers,” referring to Regev, Netanyahu confidant Miki Zohar and other Likud officials deemed close to the prime minister.
“Shame on you. I wish you could get to have even a quarter of our morality. We’re proud of who’s running this country and that is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” yelled back Regev.
“You’re always crowning new kings, flipping them over like a steak. One time it was [former finance minister Moshe] Kahlon, another time [Blue and White Party chief Benny] Gantz. You turned Gantz into a messiah. Where is your messiah now?” she continued, repeating the word “steak” for effect.
It was a performance that typified the unrestrained ugly Israeli mentality that loses control, whether on the street in a fender bender, in line at the supermarket, or at a stormy house committee meeting. It was not worthy of a minister representing her country on a national TV program.
But instead of backing down, Regev doubled down. In her car on the way home from the interview, she recorded a video in which she expressed pride in her statements and uploaded it to Facebook.
“The time has come to put it all on the table, to answer them and not be afraid. So raise up your voices, because they cannot turn us into a punching bag. I really hope they don’t edit that interview, and will broadcast it as is to the Israeli public,” she said.
The next day, Regev went even further, calling on Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit to stop Culture and Sport Minister Chili Tropper from interfering in the possible appointment of an Israel national soccer team coach.
“Even if Regev continues to make political rounds on the backs of Israeli sport, the picture will not change: she is interfering in matters that do not concern her. It involves politics in sport and thus harms the national team and its millions of fans,” said Tropper in response to Regev’s comments, adding that the appointment of a national coach will never be the result of political considerations.
International soccer statutes strictly forbid political interference in the running of the sport, and only the sanctioned body in Israel, the Israel Football Association, is authorized to appoint a coach at its own discretion. If political interference is proven, it would lead to Israel’s automatic exclusion from all international soccer events.
It’s ironic that Regev, who preceded Tropper as culture and sport minister, chose to ignore that regulation when she brazenly threatened Berkovic. It’s also ironic that Regev once held the position of culture minister. Based on her televised outburst, it would appear she is sorely lacking in culture.